Theme Post: Loneliness
Alex Donaldson of our Employment & HR team brings you a three part blog series focussing on mental health awareness week 2022. This blog one of three.
The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 is Loneliness. During the pandemic, our connection to our friends, family, colleagues and loved ones was cut as we all played our part in self-isolating and quarantining for the benefit of national health. A sense of community is fundamental in protecting not only our own mental health, but also in being able to check in with our loved ones to make sure we are all doing okay.
Now, as we progress further through 2022, we see that mandatory quarantining and mask policies are being phased out. In the world of work, companies are grappling with updating their sickness policies, and addressing the permanence of remote working and hybrid working. When making decisions in regards to the “return to normality”, people’s mental health must be a central topic in making this decision.
As an employer, it’s important to look at the statistics for what employees are reporting about remote working.
Percentage of employees who feel remote working has negatively affected their career progression and promotion opportunities
Percentage of employees who feel remote working has negatively affected their training and development
Percentage of employees who feel more affected by imposter syndrome and self-doubt as a product of remote working
Percentage of employees who feel more isolated as a result of remote working
As can be noted from the above, a sense of isolation feeds into all of these negative statistics. Isolation and lack of communication leads employees to worry about the current state of their job, how well they are doing, and what they need to do to progress. Isolation breeds loneliness, which is bad news for all employers, and it is bad news for employers too. A lonely, unhappy and struggling workforce is unable to work effectively.
So, is it all bad? The short answer is no. A lot of people have enjoyed the newfound flexibility that has come from stepping out of the office and working from home.
Percentage of employees who feel remote working has positively impacted their job motivation
Percentage of employees who reported being asked by their boss about wellbeing more often since working remotely
Percentage of employees who feel more trusted to work autonomously without the need to be micromanaged.
Percentage of employees who feel working from home has improved their work-life balance
As can be noted from the above, remote working does have its benefits. It can be positive for a business and for its employees who can reap the benefits of higher efficiency and improved employee satisfaction. It is important to highlight this as remote working shouldn’t be demonised as a bad working practice, but analysed for its strengths and its weaknesses.
HOW TO COMBAT LONELINESS
Naturally, the isolating nature of remote working can foster an environment of loneliness. However, as this article has outlined, remote working also brings significant benefits. To get rid of remote working altogether would be to deny employees all the benefits they may enjoy by working remotely.
The purpose of this article therefore is to outline that fixing the issue of employee loneliness is going to be more about effective communication and discussion about employee needs than it will be about implementation of policies.
As communication is so important, a good practice is to schedule informal ‘catch-ups’ with employees. This can help employees have an informal channel to communicate with management about any professional or person struggles they are experiencing while working remotely. It can be done individually, or if that seems too confrontational, as a team so that employees have a chance to speak about what is going on with other people in their situation.
On a more individual level, management could take steps to assist remotely with a developed working routine that catered for individual flexibility. By maybe arranging certain tasks at scheduled times throughout the day, or having a time in the afternoon where everyone has to be logged off devices, firms can ensure that employees are taking time to add structure to their home working life. Informally encouraging comfort breaks and reflecting positively on employees spending family time can also help employee work satisfaction and ethic.
Working arrangements have never been a one-size-fits-all approach. Even prior to the pandemic, working patterns were different for students, mothers and travelling businessmen. What the pandemic has identified is that unilateral changes to working arrangements, and treating everyone the same, will not benefit all employees; some people will prefer the freedom of working from home, while some will enjoy the routine that comes from office work.
Understanding your employees and their individual needs is the biggest step you can take to ensuring that you are offering an appropriate system of employee wellbeing. Remote and hybrid working is a new tool in the employer’s toolbox to both encourage efficiency and facilitate employee wellbeing.
If you would like to contact our Employment & HR team about anything discussed in this blog, you can reach them on 01228 552222 and email@example.com