How to tackle loneliness in the workplace

With working days becoming longer and increasing pressure on employees, many can feel lonely and isolated

Some find that they have spent so many hours in the office or trying to catch up on sleep that their personal life has suffered. Others feel lonely because they have little in common with their colleagues. These feelings of loneliness have psychological and physical effects that can in turn hinder performance at work. It’s important to remember that more hours spent in the office doesn’t always equate to more work being done, and those working around the clock don’t necessarily feel happy at work.

More specifically, research conducted by California State University found that if an employee feels lonely this will trigger an emotional withdrawal from their workplace and a decrease in commitment. It appears that if businesses wish to maintain impressive customer retention rates then their staff’s wellbeing needs to be looked after.

Here are five tips to tackle loneliness at work:

1. Introduce a ‘no eating at desks’ policy
Sitting in an office all day can feel isolating, especially if a demanding workload doesn’t leave time for staff to communicate. An easy way to tackle this is to encourage employees to leave their desks at lunch and sit together, ensuring that even the busiest people have a chance to join the rest of the team. The benefits of talking to others and having a chance to relax in a more informal setting can be huge, preventing people from becoming too consumed in their work and disconnected from others.

2. Hold regular meetings
During a busy week it’s easy for employees to work tirelessly on their own tasks, forgetting to check in with others or finding it hard to schedule in updates. Holding regular meetings means that the whole team will have the chance to interact and will prevent anyone feeling as though they come to work, sit down and then leave without having the chance to talk, or enjoy the high quality of work that comes from sharing ideas.

3. Consider the office layout
People feeling lonely at work can often be the result of some members being separated from the rest of the team, or an office layout not leaving much room to talk to others. While you don’t want your staff to be talking so much they're distracted, communication is essential for general wellbeing. Most humans are social beings and this needs to be nurtured in the workplace. For employees suffering with loneliness, listening to the flow of conversation can be incredibly comforting.

4. Encourage time off
Loneliness sometimes occurs outside of the workplace as a direct result of what is happening at work. Working late and feeling tired over the weekend can lead to people cancelling plans or not wanting to spend time with friends and family. This then has knock-on effects in how they feel and perform at work. If staff don’t have the chance to relax and socialise over the weekend they will feel less engaged when returning to work.

5. Consider who you hire
If you have a young team think about who would be best suited to join them and who is likely to fit in. If you’re running the office on your own and feel disconnected from everyone else, find a way to bridge those gaps or introduce a staff progression programme.

Ben Edwards is a self-confidence expert and relationship coach