How to tackle loneliness at work for employees

A quick summary:

  • What is loneliness at work?
  • 4 ways to prevent workplace loneliness
  • Conclusion on employee loneliness

Loneliness at work is very real. In the modern workplace, many employees are battling the isolation of hybrid work, social anxiety and other issues. While the work environment has evolved, the level of wellbeing support has not. 

Leaders now face tumbling retention rates, poor job satisfaction and performance problems. Why? Amongst an array of reasons, social wellbeing hasn’t received the rightful attention. Organisations must realise that it is no longer a nice-to-have but a necessity. 

While working from home was essential during the peak of the pandemic, and it has become a preference for millions of employees. However, this increase has created a new epidemic in many companies –  loneliness at work. 

According to MentalHealthUK, one in five of us feel lonely at work on a typical day. It’s figures like this that highlight just how vital emotional wellbeing really is. Managers cannot afford to avoid the topic any longer.

To give leaders a better chance of retaining top talent, getting the best out of their workforce and helping management improve staff wellbeing, we’re diving into workplace loneliness.

A male employee suffering from loneliness, sat alone on a couch
How to identify employee loneliness

Identifying employee loneliness

So, what is employee loneliness? Why does it matter? According to GenesisHR Solutions, employee loneliness is an appropriate definition for employees feeling “geographically disconnected” and/or “emotionally isolated”

This is a great way to view loneliness in the workplace, as it highlights two scenarios in which loneliness can occur for employees. And as GenesisHR states, it’s a “big deal for employers”.

Only once leaders recognise the importance of tackling workplace loneliness will they create stronger teams and businesses. With the rise of remote work, employees are faced with increased geographical disconnect. Believe it or not, this scenario can harm personal wellbeing; inevitably spiralling into emotional isolation. 

The UK Gov website does a nice job of summarising workplace loneliness, stating that meaningful relationships with others has a positive impact on our work wellbeing, quality of work and engagement. The article also describes how employee loneliness leads to poor performance, higher absenteeism and hinders a company’s retention rate.

Similar read: Signs of bullying in the workplace and how to stop it

Heka’s loneliness at work definition

Loneliness at work is a serious matter. It’s a definition that can apply to an individual in the workplace that feels disconnected, isolated and alone whilst undertaking their tasks and duties. Employee loneliness is a growing epidemic, increasing tenfold in recent years with the explosion of working from home. 

It’s a lacking sense of belonging to a team or purpose in the workplace, which should (and can) be improved by the leadership and management of an organisation. It’s also a reflection of an organisation’s communication skills. 

Because when systems are put in place to improve communication and collaboration, whether remote or not, loneliness in the workplace will improve. Ultimately, the question comes back to wellbeing at work. How well are leaders supporting their employees? Are they offering enough initiatives? 

Now that we’ve delivered a solid definition of workplace loneliness above, let’s summarise the key characteristics employer should look out for when assessing the emotional wellbeing of their team.

Key characteristics of loneliness:

  • Social anxiety
  • Shyness
  • Distrust
  • Low self-esteem
  • Hostility
  • Low mood and stress
  • Poor mental health
An employee looking stressed and carrying her paperwork
4 ways to prevent loneliness at work

4 ways to prevent loneliness at work

Now, let’s discuss 4 ways to prevent loneliness at work for your team. While this list is by no means exhaustive, it should give you a good idea of how to create healthier, happier employees –  and ultimately minimise workplace loneliness.

Create easier opportunities to communicate and collaborate

A healthy workplace (one that keeps workplace loneliness to a minimum), is a workplace that thrives on great communication and collaboration. Without these components, it’s hard to create great relationships among employees.

If employers want to reduce low mood and stress, hostility, poor mental health and other characteristics of loneliness that their team is experiencing, they must improve communication and collaboration.

It’s about creating opportunities in which employees can work with each other. Take Heka for example, our entire team uses Slack to communicate. However, there are multiple Slack channels dedicated to different interests in the team – there’s even a channel for F1 fans! 

In the working environment, managers should look for a crossover where teams can work harmoniously on projects and tasks. It’s creative ways like this that can reduce loneliness at work for your team.

Recognise that employee wellbeing is indispensable

Let’s get one thing straight; employee wellbeing is super important! It’s a necessity for companies to thrive, for employees to feel and work at their best and many other positives.

If leaders aren’t creating a people-first culture, they are quickly falling behind their competitors — even with greater products or services. Here at Heka, we offer more than a thousand unique wellbeing experiences, products and services. 

It’s through our platform that hundreds of employees across the UK can take back control of their health and happiness. From bouldering to financial coaching and more, we strongly recommend you find out more by booking a demo with our experts.

Not sold on using an employee wellbeing platform? No sweat! As a leader, you should come up with a number of ways to support wellbeing. Whether that’s 1-2-1 meetings, or through paid access to local leisure centres and spa facilities. 

The only difference between Heka and a DIY approach, is that we bring all the best providers under one roof and at a price that works for companies who:

  1. Don’t want to break the bank
  2. Want to streamline their benefits and wellbeing programme
  3. Really want to create healthier, happier teams

Things like mental health support, life coaching and group fitness classes are great ways to address social anxiety and employee loneliness. Hence why employee wellbeing as a whole has made it into our list!

Actively encourage better relationships

While all managers want their teams to gel well, without actively encouraging this, it could be harder than you think. People don’t always get along. That’s just life. However, organisations can encourage healthier, happier relationships in the workplace

Through social gatherings, teams can come together and build better relationships. This, of course, reduced loneliness at work, as people can invest time in getting to know one another, instead of focusing on tasks and projects. 

Each fortnight on a Wednesday, the Heka team gets involved in a team-wide video call to play a virtual game. Sometimes this requires us to split into teams and work together. 

It’s ideas like this that bring people closer, reduce workplace loneliness and help support wellbeing too – think about it. It’s a moment for your employees to think and talk about something different, during the working week too.  

Similar read: How to tackle discrimination in the workplace

Promote healthier habits outside of work

Finally, let’s turn our attention to promoting healthier habits outside of work. Leaders must tread carefully around this strategy. 

What may work for ourselves, might not work for others. We mustn’t come across as pushy, and only suggest ways to build healthier lifestyles.

Leaders should use regular meetings to talk about life in general. If there’s a good level of trust, employees will often come forward with things they are struggling with. If they open up about loneliness or isolation, leaders can encourage healthier habits such as making more plans with colleagues. Alternatively, there may be other issues that can cause workplace loneliness. 

Think about it. When employees are burnt out, it is often due to overworking. Using their own hours to focus on work tasks. If they are regularly overworking it highlights more than one problem. 

Firstly, they are unable to complete workloads, and they must be reviewed. But it also suggests that their work-life balance needs reviewing, as they may be spending less time with friends and family to get their job done. This will inevitably lead to to employee loneliness and should be addressed.

A male employee sat alone outside with his hand against his face, thinking.
Conclusion on workplace loneliness

Conclusion on workplace loneliness

As you can see, we’ve barely scratched the surface of the possibilities to reduce loneliness at work. These ideas however are ones we believe every business should incorporate — even if there is very little concern for employee loneliness. 

Loneliness, as we’ve explored, is a huge issue in the modern workplace, and hybrid working has done no justice for the matter. It is now, as it always has been, in the hands of employers. They must educate their management teams to approach the subject. 

The digital age has proven time and time again that technology can be leveraged in many ways – communication should be no issue, even for remote employees. With a hint of creativity, as we’ve shown above, leaders can create great relationships among employees.