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26 Oct 2022

How to help home-working employees beat the loneliness trap

While home or hybrid working has been a life changer for many people, humans are social creatures and feelings of isolation can be a huge problem for wellbeing. But employers can help mitigate these problems

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Traditional working environments have changed for most of the UK population, with many people finding themselves working differently – integrating hybrid and remote working into their daily lives.

Data from the Office of National Statistics shows more than 8 in10 workers in the UK planned for hybrid working after the Covid-19 pandemic. Between February and May 2022, the number of hybrid workers increased from 13% to 24%. 

In March 2021, almost one-third of UK employees preferred to work 100% remotely. By the end of 2021, only 5% of UK workers said they would choose to work remotely, a significant decrease in just 9 months.

Missing the water cooler moment

In 2022, just 57% of UK workers would prefer to work in a hybrid setting, with 38% wanting to return to the office full-time. Some employees may prefer to stay at home due to costly commutes (31%) or some may prefer to return to the office and save on energy bills, so flexibility from the employer is advised.

Humans are fundamentally social creatures. We are used to spending a lot of time in work and around co-workers you may have seen more than members of your own family. For 37% of UK workers, socialising with colleagues is the most motivating factor of coming into the office. 

Feeling lonely or lacking social interaction can be detrimental to wellbeing. Social isolation can increase the risk of mental health problems – including anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, increased stress and difficulty sleeping.  

• 24% of remote and hybrid workers are struggling with loneliness, a 4% increase on 2020. 

• 73% of UK remote workers feel their employer should/could be doing more to tackle the issue of staff loneliness, highlighting how employees are coping and their expectations from employers.

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Remote and hybrid working settings make it difficult for employers to monitor employee health. Some 81% of organisations report presenteeism (working when ill) from those working from home, nearly one in five higher than those in the office. Not only does this affect employee recovery and wellbeing, but it also hits the quality of employee output and performance.

Supporting remote workers

Purpose is an important driver of employee wellbeing, with 82% of employees saying they’re more motivated to work when they feel like they belong and are serving a greater mission. 

To help create a sense of purpose, it is important to show employees the bigger picture and how their work fits into it. Helping your employees understand how their team works together remotely (eg, updates and goals) can also help bring meaning to work and establish an enhanced sense of purpose.

Belonging reminds us how important workplace relationships are. Daily team meetings help keep staff connected and facilitate casual check ins on each other’s wellbeing. Set aside time for chat outside of the professional realm to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness - helping to cultivate deeper connections between employees that may not meet (face-to-face) very often.

Ensure all employees have what they need to effectively do their job, in a remote setting. Ergonomics can ensure health and safety standards are maintained and staff are taking care of their bodies, not just folding over their laptop on the sofa. Training can be provided to HR or management to help adopt a positive remote working culture, have open conversations and encourage better relationships between staff.

A little flexibility can make a big difference

A degree of flexibility is required to support employees that are struggling to manage child and caring responsibilities. Staff satisfaction will increase and staff turnover will fall all round if employees are given more control over work settings and hours.

Businesses should offer robust employee benefits with integrated wellbeing offerings to include both mental (eg coaching or therapy) and physical care (eg digital gym or nutritional advice) to improve accessibility and reduce fragmentation and duplication of  wellbeing resources.

An effective workplace wellbeing strategy should empower employees to take control of their own mental health and wellbeing by providing the knowledge, training, tools and support required to maintain it on an ongoing basis.

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