How can you manage employee loneliness when working from home?

With the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forcing much of the UK workforce to work from home, David Price, workplace wellbeing expert and CEO of Health Assured, explains how employers can manage loneliness among staff.

Working From Home Loneliness

What are the risks of loneliness among your workforce?

With much of the UK workforce continuing to work from home during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, loneliness has become a by-product of the social restrictions put in place for many people around the world. This has been especially difficult for those living alone or who have had to self-isolate for a length of time.

Loneliness can often be the precursor of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. With research from Total Jobs finding that 60 per cent of employees feel lonely at work, it’s in the best interest of employers to make every effort in fighting off the spread of loneliness within their organisation. In the same study, 68 per cent of employees identified increased stress levels due to workplace loneliness.

A stressed workforce is a less productive one. High stress levels among employees can contribute to higher absences, increased turnover and a negative workplace atmosphere. There are also financial risks associated; mental health issues, including work-related stress, cost the UK and Irish economies £26 billion and €1.5 billion a year, respectively.

How can you manage employee loneliness?

Due to the ongoing coronavirus situation, the risk of employee loneliness is considerably higher than normal, and the opportunity for intervention has been reduced due to the increase in remote workers and furloughed staff.

However, while it may seem like a difficult task, there are numerous ways for employers to fulfil their duty of care towards their staff during these challenging times. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Check in - Conduct regular, informal one-on-one ‘catch-ups’ with your team members. If you can’t do these in person (at a safe distance) we recommend that you host virtual meetings via video calling software or a simple phone call. Use these catchups as an opportunity for the employee to raise any concerns they have regarding their work life and mental health.
  • Virtual gatherings - With many of us living in lockdown conditions for weeks and months, social interaction will be sorely missed by many of your employees. Hosting a virtual ‘staff party’ can be a great way for employees to interact with their friends and colleagues - improving their moods in the process.
  • Signpost to EAP – Look into providing an employee assistance programme (EAP) so employees can discuss any mental health concerns. A compassionate, listening ear is just a phone call away.

Managing workplace loneliness during these unprecedented times is undoubtedly a challenge. However, by putting these suggestions in place, you will see a happier, healthier workforce. Which, in turn, will improve your workplace culture, productivity and overall performance.

About the author

David Price is CEO of Health Assured, a provider of health and wellbeing solutions. He advises employers on how to encourage and develop a healthy workplace, while outlining best-practice guidance on how to combat and control workplace stress.

See also

How will the workplace look after the lockdown?

Five things to consider before making staff redundant

What you need to know about holiday entitlement and pay during lockdown

Company profiles

Find out more

COVID-19: guidance for employees (GOV.UK)

Image: Getty Images

Publication date: 10 June 2020

Any opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and the author alone, and does not necessarily represent that of The Gazette.