Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 takes place from 9 to 15 May 2022. The theme this year is loneliness and aims to highlight the impact loneliness can have on our wellbeing and overall mental health.

In this blog, Helen Clay, Head of HR at Bray & Bray, provides advice on what employers can do to address loneliness in the workplace.   

Loneliness will impact most of us at some point during our lives. With research suggesting that loneliness amongst people in the UK increased during and in the aftermath of the pandemic, now is the time for employers to review how they support employees affected by loneliness.

In this year’s campaign, Mental Health UK is focusing on four key areas to give people the tools to improve their mental health and help employers to make positive changes in the workplace. With many workplaces implementing hybrid and remote working, loneliness is likely to become a growing social issue that must be addressed.

Raise awareness of poor mental health and loneliness

As with most things, knowledge is power. Employers can raise awareness of loneliness through training, wellbeing initiatives and sharing helpful information. Many mental health organisations have websites with free, accessible tools and information which can be shared across the workforce. Simply sharing an article, poster or website link to your workforce is likely to help at least one employee and as a minimum, should hopefully get teams and colleagues talking.

You can go one step further and hold a wellbeing session focusing on loneliness, either in-person or virtually. Through the session, you can share tips and tools for employees to apply in the workplace and at home and connect your staff with any benefits you offer that support mental health, such as counselling.

Arrange an informal team lunch and encourage everyone to get to know one and other. This is particularly important for those who predominantly work from home. A friendly conversation can truly make a positive impact on someone who is suffering.

Provide safe and welcoming spaces to talk

Safe talking spaces in the workplace are vital to creating an open, honest and welcoming environment where managers can talk to team members confidentially and colleagues can share worries and concerns with one another.

Managers can create these safe spaces by holding effective 1:1 meetings. Not only should they meet regularly with their team to talk through work specific tasks, but they should also use the time to get to know each individual team member and discuss how they are feeling.

If employees are working from home, it only takes a couple of minutes to drop them an email or message asking how they are. If someone is feeling lonely or is in a role where there isn’t much interaction with others, regular communication can make a positive difference.

In the workplace, create a quiet space or area where colleagues can take a break and talk to each other. This should be a space where they are able to remove themselves from the distractions of their roles. For home-workers, encourage virtual breaks or lunch break chats amongst colleagues. Set up a team instant messaging chat where staff can chat and ask questions, work-related or otherwise.

Support staff to upskill on technology

Most roles involve use of a computer in some capacity but even for those that don’t, sharing ‘how to’ guides on using technology to communicate with others can bring a whole host of benefits to employees, including helping them stay in touch with friends and family outside of work.

Hold a ‘lunch and learn’ session where employees can pick up tips and tricks on how to use apps and communication tools on their phones and computers.

Create a volunteer support network

Mental Health First Aiders can be a great asset to employers looking to better support their employees. Often, these are members of staff who, after undergoing the relevant training, volunteer to act as a point of contact for colleagues experiencing emotional distress or mental health issues.

Setting up a social committee responsible for organising events – physical or virtual – such as meet-ups and quizzes is also a great way to encourage employee interaction away from the desk.

Remember loneliness may not always be obvious – employees may choose to suffer in silence and something as simple as asking how they are, or inviting them to take part in a social activity, may help open up a constructive conversation about their mental health.

Speak to our HR experts

If you would like advice and guidance on how to better support the mental health of your workforce, and tackle loneliness in the workplace, Bray & Bray’s Employment & HR team is here to help.  

Contact us here.