We live in a connected world. Through our phones, laptops, social media and gaming stations, we can pretty much contact anyone 24/7 and yet loneliness affects millions of people. Loneliness and the physical and mental health issues that can come with it are affecting more of us in England, and has been exacerbated by the pandemic. It’s for this reason that the Mental Health Foundation has set the theme of loneliness for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (9 – 15 May 2022).
Loneliness is a complex emotion. It’s possible to feel lonely in a room full of people you know well. It’s possible to feel lonely sat next to your close family.
Loneliness is a subjective, unwelcome feeling of lack or loss of companionship, which happens when there is a mismatch between the quantity and quality of the social relationships that we have, and those that we wantPerlman and Peplau, 1981
Events which can trigger loneliness include:
- Changing jobs (or moving teams)
- Relationship breakdown
- Becoming a parent
- Moving house/moving to another area or country
- Uncertainty about the future
- Experiencing mental or physical illness
There are health risks associated with loneliness such as heart problems, depressions, higher levels of stress, decreased memory and changes to cognitive ability and drug and alcohol misuse. There is now substantial evidence that having a lack of social connections significantly increases the risk of premature mortality.
The cost of loneliness to UK employers has been estimated to be £2.5billion every year, primarily due to increased staff turnover as well as lower wellbeing and productivity and ill health and associated sickness absence.
“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.”Maya Angelou
What can managers do to combat loneliness?
- Build a team that shares values and goals – shared values and goals create a sense of purpose and connection
- Encourage social interaction within your team – whether in workplace or online
- Check in on your team regularly – regular 121s will help you to notice any changes in any team member’s behaviour
- Show empathy
“Empathy fuels connection. Sympathy drives disconnection”Dr. Brené Brown
- Make wellbeing a standing agenda item at team meetings
- Promote the importance of self care – lead by example
- Encourage your team to volunteer – it’s a good way to meet people and helping others improves our mental health
Other resources to explore
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