12 May 2022

Mental Health Awareness Week: Tackling loneliness in a hybrid world

Senior Strategist, Bethany Mullett, talks about tackling loneliness in a hybrid working world.

Loneliness, the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (9th-13th May) and a top priority wellbeing factor for HR and line managers (we won’t mention the reasons why, you know!).

In the realm of the ‘workplace’, loneliness ties tightly to a culture of connection. And the challenges organisations are currently experiencing with establishing, maintaining and enabling employee connectivity whilst discovering the twists and turns of hybrid working.

So, what’s the role of employers, line managers and HR teams in dealing with employee loneliness? How can meaningful connections and strong relationship building develop without a physical office?

How things used to be – the ol’ office culture

For some, it may feel like a distant memory, for others a foreign land. From kitchen chat, over the desk problem solving to catching the colleagues who hasn’t replied to your email in the hallway for an answer. What about team lunches, office drinks or big meetings in the board room.

It was these things that built colleague connection.

Now those same people are living a different reality and we can’t rely on the physical spaces we once knew. Many organisations try to recreate these experiences (e.g. teams should meet in the for office collaboration days) but problematically, its failing to take hold.

In short, a lack of meaningful connection between colleagues is causes loneliness for employees. 

How can managers problem solve culture in a hybrid world to support lonely employees?

Improved meaningful connection = positive impact on engagement and productivity

The opportunity in front of us

Employers have an incredible opportunity to be a burning platform for change. Daily working practices can make huge differences to benefit and help achieve meaningful connection between colleagues.

Meaningful connections are forged during purposeful interaction – be it 1:1 conversation or collective achievement. Here are some key examples that work in the hybrid setting:

  • Teams opening a video call and working away independently whilst chatting to their colleagues – recreating that in-person experience online. Simply, achieving their daily tasks together whilst enjoying the company of their colleagues
  • Challenges based on shared interests – like the MHF’s awareness challenge #80MilesInMay For example, the team at McCann Synergy have invited all colleagues for a team walk Friday lunchtime, to take time away from their desk – from wherever they are. Each are encouraged to share pictures from their walk and feel connected to other colleagues.
  • Recognising that chat time is important, and ensuring there’s space for it in your meeting agendas
  • Raising the profile and volume of your employee networks and interest groups to create more opportunities to meet and work with colleagues outside of normal working patterns
  • Ensuring 1:1s remain high priority, more so than ever before, and encouraging 1:1 interactions in all directions, across working groups and teams

Focusing on meaningful connection at work, will in return provide opportunities for employees experiencing loneliness to feel content and joy. To continue the discussion of creating meaningful connections for employees in a hybrid world, talk to us.

Mental Health Awareness Week 9th – 15th May 2022 – find out more from the Mental Health Foundation here

Bethany headshot

Bethany Mullett
Senior Strategist
Connect with me on LinkedIn

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