Loneliness affects millions of people in the UK, and its effects have been exacerbated by some of the measures taken during the covid pandemic, with 45% of adults in UK reporting via the Office for National Statistics, that they felt lonely “some of the time”, “occasionally”, or “often”. Loneliness can have negative impacts on mental and physical health, with studies linking it to increased risks of depression, anxiety, heart disease and dementia. With a sudden shift to remote or hybrid working, how can employers continue to look after their employees and help combat loneliness in the workplace?
Working together in a hybrid environment
When offices closed overnight in March 2020, most employees left the old Monday to Friday 9 to 5 in the office model behind them, preferring a more flexible approach to working patterns that remote and hybrid working offer. However, despite the importance of an improved work / life balance for most, for many who relied on the workplace to fill up their social tank it has heightened the effects of loneliness.
At Ultimate Finance we have made hybrid working an important tool to help combat loneliness by empowering employees to work in the environment that works best for them both professionally and socially. After trialling monthly all-office days across the country, based on employee feedback we decided to make them weekly to help boost collaboration and provide our teams with more regular face to face time. In addition to that, our offices remain open five days a week for those that want to be in more frequently as well as for external meetings or as their designated workplace.
This hybrid approach has proven beneficial to both our business and employee wellbeing by improving our approach to working in ways that suit whilst ensuring we all contribute to keeping lines of communication and engagement open and even more streamlined during working hours than before 2020. In offices, this is facilitated by open plan structures, enhanced meeting spaces designed to enable collaboration with people whether in or out of the room, and social spaces where people can gather, catch up or relax in. When remote working, applications such as Microsoft Teams provide great lines of communications, both oral and written, with cameras on during meetings helping to promote more social and personal environment.
Employees and customers are people first
Our hybrid approach has become so embedded within our ways of working that it is now the norm for us. and therefore promote the importance of carving out some time in the diaries for social time, whether at a wider company level, within teams or even run independently in smaller groups. Regularly, our Regional Directors and Relationship Managers meet with their introducer network and the people behind the businesses we support in more casual settings such as sports events, networking dinners or even spa outings so that they can get to know each other better and build stronger relationships.
On weekly office days, we regularly hold themed events to boost conversations within the workplace. Such events in the past were run around wellbeing with access to in person check-ups directly in the office, diversity with catered lunches to help discover new cultures, or mental health with conversations with our Mental Health First Aiders. All of our offices have also been rethought to emphasise collaboration and hybrid working through enhanced meeting spaces which allow users to make the most of technology to facilitate in-person and virtual meetings.
When working from home, we encourage teams to start their day with a daily team call to check in on each other, not only to help streamline work but also to help notice any signs of loneliness that may arise during the week. We run monthly “Coffee Roulette” meetings where employees are invited to be randomly placed in virtual calls with other employees and offered the chance to catch up for a half hour and promote the importance of building great relationships with each other.
Raising awareness to tackle loneliness
Earlier this week, we were delighted to host an internal webinar with the Marmalade Trust, the UK’s leading loneliness charity for all ages and the only charity in the world specifically dedicated to raising awareness of loneliness, and which is responsible for the Loneliness Awareness Week campaign. During the session, we heard about ways to help eliminate the stigma associated with loneliness, and how to encourage ourselves and each other to talk about it to help combat it.
At Ultimate Finance, we are proud of how our teams have worked and grown together despite the challenges we have all faced, and we strongly believe that raising awareness and empowering people to feel comfortable to discuss issues such as loneliness can do a lot to help combat its effects.
If you are feeling lonely or need someone to talk to, please reach out to a manager, HR team, employee assistance program or a colleague for help. You are not alone.