Loneliness is the focus of mental health week this year, and it prompted our director Claire Gray, as an employer to look at workplace loneliness. Something that has grown over the pandemic and the increasing work from home culture that was forced upon us and now increasingly adopted as part of many organisations working patterns. Below Claire shares her thoughts on this.
We spend more of our day time at work, and with our colleagues, than with many other important people in our lives. Even in the home/office hybrid work patterns, they may be the people you interact with most.
Workplace loneliness really encompasses feeling like an outsider in your place of employment. This in turn leads to disengagement and a feeling of being disconnected from work, and the team and colleagues. Once employees feel they aren’t included, or part of their team and notice connections amongst others that they don’t feel themselves, they become emotionally detached from their team and the company, and ultimately its overall success. The lack of belonging is a very debilitating feeling. We have probably all experienced this to a greater, or lesser degree in our lives and can all relate to this feeling on some level. Feeling like this reduces your commitment and feeling of being part where you work, and it’s easy to then start pulling away from getting involved with your team and colleagues and steering clear of any events or after work social activities. This is not good for anyone, and I wanted to think about how we could all tune into this more, notice more and follow some simple steps to make sure no one you work with or in your office is suffering in this way.
One of the six values we have at Bain and Gray is inclusion. This is because it is essential to every aspect of our business, in the way we source and recruit candidates, to the way we work as a team and operate as a company.
Small steps can make big differences:
1. Assess the Situation. See who is in the background, who isn’t coming forward, who needs including and bringing into the company.
2. Change Your Way of Working. Bring your teams together, collaborate with ideas and encourage discussions – everyone should have a voice and feel their opinions matter.
3. Build a Team That Has a Shared Direction. Teams are so important in companies, mixed abilities, skills and views make for a rich and successful team with a common and clear end goal and direction.
4. Encourage Good Relationships. This seems obvious, but good relationships at work are key to workplace happiness. Bring teams and different groups within the company together socially as well as in the work place – a carefully thought through fun day or evening out can build really fantastic and long standing friendships and cohesiveness within a company.
5. Take an Interest in People's Lives. Asking how someone’s weekend was, or what they are doing after work, can open up all sorts of insights and interests that your colleagues may have. It is important to know the whole person and their lives outside work. It may throw up common interests and new friendships. Being interested is everything.
6. Remember the Little Things. Always, everyone notices the little things and they matter just as much as the grand gestures – daily care and consideration is small but so important. As well as small kind acts, including noticing a kindness or help with a ‘thank you that was really helpful’ makes people feel valued and included.
7. Tackle Exhaustion. Encourage holidays when your team are tired – exhausted people retreat from work, they wilt under pressure and are likely not to make decisions.
8. Virtual Colleagues. In this hybrid working world don’t forget your virtual colleagues – communicate, stay in touch, include everyone – all are important to the happy workplace.