During Mental Health Awareness Week[i], Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing (Howden) is launching a new guide, ‘Loneliness: How to support people in the workplace’ to help employers support workers who may be struggling with loneliness.
Nine million people in the UK are suffering from loneliness according to the Campaign to End Loneliness[ii]. The health risks are significant. Loneliness has the same health risk as smoking 15 cigarettes per day, increases the risk of high blood pressure and is worse for people than obesity[iii].
Howden says for employers, loneliness presents considerable financial risks. One estimate in a Government report[iv] on loneliness puts the cost to businesses at £2.5 billion every year. At an individual level, the monetised impact of severe loneliness has been estimated as £9,900 per person per year, due to the impact on wellbeing, health and productivity.
People experiencing loneliness can feel disengaged and disconnected from their work and colleagues, which can cause them to become emotionally detached from the organisation.
Mark Fosh, Director at Howden said: “Even if they have a bustling workplace, employees could still be experiencing loneliness or supporting someone who is facing it. People can find it difficult to admit they are lonely and to access the right support, so it’s important employers understand the impacts of loneliness.
“Being aware of loneliness and putting support in place to help can make a powerful difference to individuals and the organisation.”
Howden recommends seven ways to support employees experiencing loneliness:
Communicate and raise awareness – Create space for employees to talk about their wellbeing by checking in regularly, even if it’s on a video call. Raising awareness will help to build a company culture where people feel comfortable disclosing challenges and informed about the support available to them.
Facilitate workplace socialising – People with social connections at work tend to be more engaged and loyal because these relationships help to build a company culture based on trust and respect. This creates social cohesion at work, facilitating more teamwork, creativity and collaboration.
Create opportunities for employees to connect – Organise quizzes, group calls or even exercise classes for remote employees; assign work buddies or mentors who can listen to work and non-work-related issues and provide team lunches or away days where employees can socialise outside of the workplace setting.
Support managers – If managers are to take greater responsibility for safeguarding mental health in the workplace, it’s vital that they are prepared with proper training. Adopting a mental health first aid scheme means having trained employees who know the signs of loneliness as well as how to respond appropriately.
Encourage employees to use their employee benefits – benefits such as Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), virtual GPs and mental health nurses can all prove a useful source of help. EAPs provide around-the-clock confidential support for a wide range of problems employees might be facing. As well as helping employers to meet their duty of care to employees, EAPs are popular because they are affordable and easy to put in place.
Support employees with care responsibilities – People caring for elderly or disabled relatives can face stress or depression due to the pressure[v]. Research by Carers UK, pre-pandemic, found every day 600 people in the UK were giving up work to care for a loved one[vi]. Offering flexible working arrangements can help people balance these responsibilities.
Signpost to charities – Make employees aware of available support. Charities supporting lonely people include: Mind and The Samaritans, which have helplines providing non-judgemental support and advice; The Silver Line and Age UK, which support older people and organisations such as Meet Up Mondays which tackle loneliness by facilitating meetups.
To download the free guide, ‘Loneliness: How to support people in the workplace’, click here.
For more information, please visit www.howdengroup.co.uk