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By Emma Attenborough-Sergeant Wellness Expert at GoVida - The Employee Wellbeing Platform

Earlier this month, Mental Health Awareness Week saw charities, businesses and mental health campaigners draw global attention to the growing plight of loneliness – along with its impact on our mental health and wellbeing.

But what does that have to do with your workforce?

With an ever-increasing volume of people working either fully remotely or flexibly hybrid, our daily in-person interactions are dwindling. And when you’re not sipping a cuppa at the same desk and sharing stories about your weekend, it’s alarmingly easy to begin to drift.

But as well as often leading to loneliness, this state of seclusion can impair job satisfaction, job performance, and workplace mental health – which means that any responsible and conscientious employer will want to take decisive action to safeguard employee wellbeing in your workplace.

Loneliness and Mental Health

It’s no secret that people’s mental wellbeing has taken a hit since the start of the pandemic, but this presents a unique opportunity for employers to make conversations around mental health, and even just day-to-day emotions, business as usual.

The challenge is that since the start of the pandemic, we’re all a little disconnected. Again, employers have a great opportunity here to find new and inventive ways to rebuild connections, and get to the heart of what makes a happy workplace in the ‘new normal’.

So, how are loneliness and mental health connected?

Feelings of loneliness and isolation can negatively impact our mental health, but having a mental health condition can also make us more likely to experience loneliness as it can be harder to reach out. Socialising can be more difficult when experiencing poor mental health too – particularly when anxiety and depression are at play.

When it comes to work, feeling lonely – and the associated impact this can have on our wellbeing – can create high stress levels, interrupt sleep patterns, affect relationships, reduce productivity, and lower self-esteem. If your employees are experiencing any of these symptoms, and they’re not being adequately supported at work, there’s a much higher chance of absence, poor performance and even resignation.

But neither loneliness, nor poor mental health, should ever stand as a barrier to our enjoyment of work. Employers then have a crucial part to play in creating the sort of culture that allows people to speak up when they might be struggling, reach out when they’re feeling lonely, seek help when they’re in need of support, and take a step back when they need a break from it all.

How to Help Your Workforce Combat Loneliness

So, how can you help your people to thrive when loneliness sometimes feels unavoidable?

  • Encourage open conversation: Your first starting point when it comes to addressing any form of workplace wellbeing is to talk. Simply, to talk. You can’t help people if you don’t know what they need or how they’re doing – but people won’t open up to you if you’re not sincere, and equally open.

Start by talking about your own wellbeing, and ask after theirs. Use the topic of this month’s Mental Health Awareness Week (loneliness) to explore how isolated they might be feeling, and invite suggestions from your entire team on how you might counter those feelings. If people aren’t ready to open up, let them know you’re there when they feel the time is right.

  • Highlight workplace support: If loneliness is the cause – rather than the result – of low wellbeing in your workplace, it can be really effective to encourage people to make the most of any clubs, social events or exercise classes on offer. Some (albeit larger) companies even have wellbeing support groups split by demographic, which allows your employees to establish a connection, and share any issues they might have with people who can relate.

If there are no clubs, social events, exercise classes or wellbeing support groups to point people to, now would be a great time to start one! Begin by asking people what they most want to see – and be sure to explore the many workplace wellbeing resources and activities that GoVida has to offer.

  • Listen without judgement: It’s almost second-nature to make assumptions about what someone must be going through when they confide in you about feeling lonely or struggling with their mental health, but guess-work really isn’t very helpful.

A lot of people can navigate work – and life – perfectly well when living with a mental health condition; likewise, if someone talks to you about feeling lonely, it doesn’t mean they don’t have friends or family close-by. People can feel isolated for all sorts of reasons, so your only job as a confidante is to listen. Really listen.

  • Always respect confidentiality: One thing that prevents a lot of people from speaking out about something as deeply personal as their mental health is the concern that it won’t remain private.

If a member of your team talks to you about how they’re feeling, ask if they’re ready to discuss it with anybody else yet. Having people talk openly about feelings of loneliness and isolation can be a great way to smash the stigma and encourage others to open up, but it’s their decision to make.

Rebuild Workplace Camaraderie with GoVida

We know how challenging it can be to keep team spirit alive when people are working remotely, hybridly, or they’re simply getting used to being back in the office. That’s why a key element of GoVida is the ability to connect with colleagues – through shared interests, the group challenges or the leader boards – whatever way you choose to participate we make it really easy to be part of something bigger. It’s one of our most popular features.

Teams can work together – virtually or in person – to complete fun activities, and even raise money for a good cause, all of which helps to break down barriers and encourage inclusion.

For a free demo of our employee wellbeing solution, get in touch today.

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