Loneliness and Mental Health – What To Do If You Feel Lonely At Work
Loneliness, like many negative emotional responses, carries with it a stigma. Lucille Balcombe, Mental Health Nurse & CBT Therapist at The London Psychiatry Centre, says: “We often associate loneliness with the elderly or those who have undergone bereavement; however, while this is often true for people in these circumstances, loneliness is not exclusive to these groups. Often, it can affect those with busy lives, high flying jobs and buzzing social circles.”
Research by Totaljobs in 2020 found that three in five employees feel lonely at work; however, taking the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic into account, this number could now be much higher. When prolonged, lonliness is associated with an increased risk of depression, anxiety, stress, low self-esteem, personality disorders, and suicide.
In light of Loneliness Awareness Week (14-18 June 2021), we look at what to do if you feel lonely.
Why You Might Feel Lonely At Work
Loneliness can develop in the workplace due to a number of reasons:
- A change in staff – Developing good working relationships can often result in loneliness when someone leaves, even if it is to work in a different office in the same building.
- Stress and long hours – A busy and stressful work life can often spill into personal life. Long hours can stop employees from spending time with friends and family, while too much stress can take up energy that may have been utilised for socialising.
- Existing loneliness – Some employees may suffer from existing loneliness that is brought into the workplace, or even exacerbated by work.
- Isolation from colleagues – Individual office spaces have the advantage of encouraging focus, but they can make some staff feel separated from other colleagues.
- Working from home – Although virtual meetings and direct messaging have become more popular than ever during the pandemic, some employees will crave the physical communication of a shared workplace.
The Impact Of Loneliness On Mental Health
Feeling connected to others is crucial for our wellbeing. 3.7m over-16s in Britain often or always feel lonely, ONS finds. Whilst loneliness isn’t strictly a mental health problem, it is strongly linked to mental health issues. It can affect memory, learning, and can increase stress, risk of depression and anxiety.
The Impact Of Loneliness In The Workplace
According to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, ‘The cost of loneliness to UK employers has been estimated to be £2.5 billion every year’. The reasons for these costs are: increased staff turnover; lower wellbeing and productivity; the impact of caring responsibilities; and ill health and associated sickness absence. As estimated in the report, severe loneliness costs employers approximately £9,900 per person per year.
Working From Home And Loneliness
60% of the UK’s adult population are currently working from home. As lockdown eases, this percentage will likely reduce over the coming months. However, many employees will have experienced loneliness over the past year with lasting effects, even after returning to work, and some are likely to remain working from home as their offices convert to a permanent home working system. This presents a hurdle that will require support from employers in order to improve employee wellbeing, as well as input from employees to help maintain their own mental health.
What you can do if you feel lonely at work
Here are our tips for making working from home a less lonely experience:
Utilise your lunch breaks and stop working when your workday ends
Overworking is easy when working from home. While in a workplace we might step out for lunch, or mark the end of the day with a commute home. However, at home, where our living spaces blend into our work spaces, it’s not uncommon for worklife and homelife to merge, with staff even feeling more guilty for taking breaks. Instead, when it comes to lunch or the end of the day, make a strict routine of stepping away from your screen and perhaps taking a walk or visiting a cafe; this will increase chances for interaction, and leave you feeling less lonely.
Discuss concerns with colleagues
If you have good relationships with your colleagues, voice your concerns about loneliness – they will likely be feeling the same way. As we know, talking about mental health is important, but talking about it with people who share the same concerns is even more beneficial. They may even have some useful tips to help you feel less lonely.
Join an online group or forum
If you are struggling to communicate with people outside of working hours, you could join an online group or forum to help you connect with others. Facebook and Reddit have many groups where you could find people who have the same interests or are in the same situation as you.
Talk to your employer
As we mentioned earlier, employers have a duty of care to their employees, so if you have concerns about feelings of loneliness due to your work, you should voice these to your employers. Some suggestions you could make to your employers about combating workplace loneliness include:
- Implementing a mentorship programme
- Hosting regular presentations about motivation and improving mental health
- Organising virtual activities for staff (or in-person, providing social distancing guidelines allow it)
- Creating a company culture that discourages overworking
Seek professional support
If your work is impacting your mental health, we encourage you to pick up the phone and arrange an appointment to speak with one of our highly experienced consultant psychiatrists.
Get Help For Loneiness and Mental Health Issues
At The London Psychiatry Centre we offer in-person appointments, as well as telephone appointments for those unable to leave their homes. Get in touch with us using the details below: