‘Loneliness’ is the theme for this years’ Mental Health Awareness Week. Although loneliness is seen as something that the older generation tend to suffer from, it is actually much more common now in younger people, especially during and following the pandemic and the subsequent changes this has brought upon us in the workplace. Society is changing fast, along with technology. Many services and businesses are increasingly operating online for cost efficiency purposes. Workplaces are saving on office rental costs and staff are home or hybrid working, meaning people have much less social contact.
Loneliness is a key driver of poor mental health. Our connection to other people and our community is fundamental to protecting our mental health. Reducing loneliness is a major step towards creating a mentally health society. So what can we do to reduce loneliness for ourselves in and around our working lives?
- Change our ways of working – if you do work at home and have the option of going to the office, make the effort to go in and see colleagues face to face. Video call colleagues occasionally rather than sending an email or a message.
- When in the office make an effort to connect with others, ask how someone’s weekend was or how their family are and be aware of colleagues that may feel excluded and make an extra effort to hold a conversation with them – take an interest in people’s lives.
- It’s great when workplaces offer social events, monthly meetings including lunch. Lunchtime walks to get people together whilst exercising is great – get involved.
- Join a club, group or exercise class after work or at the weekend in the community. Get involved in something that interests you and meet like-minded people. This also provides a chance to unwind and talk about something different to work and promotes a good work-life balance. Social media can help with finding such groups.
- Speak to a trusted colleague or a manager about how you are feeling. It might be a difficult conversation but talking this through with someone can really help. Management may be able to offer some strategies or solutions to combat the feelings.
- Act on early warning signs – by acting on the feelings of low mood associated with loneliness, you can take action before the prolonged state of stress associated with loneliness sets in.