This week (9 to 15 May 2022) is Mental Health Awareness Week, an annual event focusing on achieving good mental health for all. The theme this year is loneliness which affects millions of people across the UK.
Feelings of loneliness are personal, so everyone’s experience of loneliness will be different, but we know that loneliness can be both the catalyst for and a product of poor mental health.
With the pandemic triggering an increase in remote/hybrid working and driving more business activities online, building and maintaining meaningful connections with our colleagues has become even more of a challenge.
Research from Totaljobs found that three in five (60%) employees feel lonely at work and that this has negative impact on self-esteem, stress levels and sleep quality. In terms of the effects on a business, loneliness decreases productivity, increases the amount of sick leave taken and is a major contributing factor to people quitting their job.
So how can we tackle loneliness and isolation at work? Here are some suggestions of how to connect for mental health:
- Encourage collaborative working to increase interaction between colleagues
- Champion an inclusive environment where everyone feels able to bring their whole self to work and voice their ideas
- Organise an event with your team. This could be a charity fundraiser, a team building event or a lunch together.
- Set up regular tea break sessions for your team to drop in for an informal chat
- Promote wellbeing activities at work such as office yoga or discounted gym membership
- Do a walking meeting with a colleague you don’t often work with
- Reserve a break in your work diary to have a check in with a colleague
- Encourage company wide Wellness Action Plans to allow people to plan and develop tailored support for when they are not coping well. These are useful for all employees regardless of whether they have a diagnosed mental health problem.
- Listen to the BBC Business Daily – Loneliness at work podcast.
- During Mental Health Awareness Week use the hashtag #IveBeenThere to share experiences of loneliness to support others.
You can find further resources and guidance for having conversations about mental health, and supporting other people at www.mentalhealth.org.uk
If you’re struggling with isolation, you might find these tips for coping with loneliness helpful from mental health charity Mind: www.mind.org.uk/loneliness