Our recent Loneliness at Work report for the All-Party Parliamentary Group of Tackling Loneliness and Connected Communities that was shared earlier this year with the British Red Cross and Astra Foundation, explored the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the shifts in working patterns and how this impacted our connections at work.
How loneliness impacts at work
Research from the Co-Op and New Economics Foundation found that loneliness at work costs employers £2.5 billion a year in the UK.
The way in which we work has evolved significantly over the course of the pandemic and beyond, with 19% of workers now working from home (1 in 5 of us), almost a quarter of workers are hybrid (24%) and significantly a third of workers (33%) have changed roles since the start of the pandemic – a rate which was at around 9% previously.
While we know that overall around 10-11% of us experience chronic loneliness at work (1 in 10), we know that there are inequalities that impact those who experience loneliness at work.
- Disabled workers and those with long-term health conditions affecting their day-to-day lives are more likely to report general loneliness than those without (24%, compared to 9%).
- Workers from minoritised ethnic groups are more likely to feel that they often or always have no one to talk to at work (13%, compared to 9%) than white workers. They also feel that their colleagues are like strangers to them (37% of workers from minoritised ethnic groups, compared to 27% of white workers.)
We may experience different feelings of loneliness throughout our careers too. Senior managers report nearly twice the average levels of feeling lonely often or always (32%) than their colleagues, and are also more likely to feel that their colleagues are strangers.
Listen to Bridget Bryan who spoke at our conference earlier this year outline a review of the research on workplace loneliness in this Tackling Loneliness Hub video
Contact with colleagues is not enough to prevent loneliness and the report this year highlighted that home workers are not lonelier than those working on site, however 84% of onsite workers agree they feel close to their colleagues (compared to 44% of homeworkers). Changes in working location during the Covid-19 restrictions led to improved relationships for many.
The key recommendations from the report included;
- Helping employers understand how loneliness affects workers and how to take meaningful action
- Address loneliness among managers and help them to create meaningful connections with and among their teams
- Support minoritised communities feel a greater sense of belonging at work
- Ensure home, onside and hybrid workers are supported to develop and maintain work relationships.
We have also discussed ideas for addressing loneliness at work over on the Tackling Loneliness Hub. The starting point for this discussion built on earlier workplace loneliness research and includes ideas from Hub members on what they found worked well in practice. We are commissioned by the DCMS to run the Tackling Loneliness Hub, an online community open to everyone in England working on loneliness to connect and collaborate.
Thinking about how to tackle loneliness both within an organisation as well as those directly engaging with customers and communities, can help recognise signs of loneliness and ways to offer support to others. Find out more about the Campaign’s e-module, bespoke online learning opportunities and face-to-face training here.
Jeffrey, K., Abdallah, S., Michaelson, J. (2017) The Cost of Loneliness to UK Employers, The New Economics Foundation. Retrieved from: https://neweconomics.org/uploads/files/NEF_COST-OF-LONELINESS_DIGITAL-Final.pdf
Office for National Statistics. (2019) Analysis of job changers and stayers. Retrieved from: https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/nationalaccounts/uksectoraccounts/compendium/economicreview/april2019/analysisofjobchangersandstayers#main-points
Campaign to End Loneliness (2020) The psychology of loneliness, Campaign to End Loneliness. Retrieved from: https://campaigntoendloneliness.org/wp-content/uploads/Psychology_of_Loneliness_FINAL_REPORT.pdf