This year’s mental health awareness week is focusing on loneliness.
And this couldn’t be more apt after the last couple of years of living within a pandemic.
In a survey conducted by ONS, 5% of people said they felt lonely “often” or “always” between 3rd April and 3rd May 2020, but this increased to 7.2% from October 2020 to February 2021. The mapping trends highlighted that this was mostly felt in areas with high concentrations of younger people and areas with higher rates of unemployment.
The pandemic forced isolation on a previously busy and sociable population. Those in single households were impacted the most, particularly in the first lockdown when there were no social bubbles. Many of the population experienced periods of loneliness – some for the first time ever.
With prolonged periods of isolation, there has also been an increase in social anxiety – especially when restrictions eased, and the world began opening up again. This can make socialising and meeting others a daunting task – even for those who have not felt this way previously.
Another dramatic change we’ve seen since the pandemic is the way people work.
Work from home became the norm, and many organisations are continuing this as an option moving forwards.
Although this is brilliant news for many jobseekers, the negative is that more people may feel the isolation of home working.
Teams calls, virtual meetings, and regular catch-up calls still play a big part in the homeworking schedule, but this can’t fully replace the in-person contact that so many of us were used to.
It’s important, therefore, that we talk about experiencing loneliness, and ensure we reach out to one another.
So, in the post-covid working world, what can be done to help tackle feelings of loneliness?
- Arrange a time to go to the office/meet with colleagues. This is particularly important if your role is fully remote. Visiting the office (or meeting with nearby colleagues if an office trip is out of the question) is a brilliant way to feel more embedded into the culture and feel a part of the team. This doesn’t have to be a constant thing, but seeing people face-to-face once in a while is important for building relationships.
- Replace the commute – it can be all too easy to just roll out of bed and go straight to your desk ready for work. That commute you used to do sometimes is a great way to get some headspace and prepare yourself for the day. So instead of this, why not replace it with a local walk? Exercise is great for mental well-being and puts you in a much better position to start the day. You may even find regular other “commuters” along the way.
- Get involved – it might well be out of your comfort zone, but if you don’t have a work community at hand, get involved in your local community. So many groups, classes, and programs are being set up again and are a great way to socialise. There are also local workgroups that are being set up by companies across the UK (often advertised on LinkedIn) and across many different industries. This is a great way of meeting other people with similar work interests and allows more networking opportunities.
These are just a few ways to help combat loneliness as we shift towards a predominantly WFH culture.
But the key thing is that you’re not alone. If you struggle at all with loneliness or any other mental health condition, don’t remain silent. Tell your colleagues, family, or friends. Or get in touch with one of the brilliant organisations that are out there to support you.
Together we can tackle loneliness.
Useful links and pages:
https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/your-mental-health (from the Mental Health Foundation)
https://giveusashout.org/(a confidential text service, free to use)