Most people have probably felt lonely during the past few years of lockdowns and restrictions on our social interactions.
Across the country and across all age groups we are now just beginning to experience some other nasty side effects of the Covid pandemic. Our connections to other people, our community and our colleagues have been limited over the past two years, but these aspects of social life are fundamental to both physical and mental health. As the pandemic ebbs away, we’re now faced with tackling another significant public health issue – an epidemic of loneliness.
Earlier this month, Mental Health Awareness Week shone a light on loneliness, to bring it out of the shadows. UK charity The Marmalade Trust, the only global charity dedicated to reducing the stigma of loneliness, will also be encouraging people to talk about their experiences during Loneliness Awareness Week, a campaign which runs from June 13-17, 2022.
Being alone vs Being lonely
Loneliness means different things to different people. You can be happy while being alone but be lonely while surrounded by people. The psychological distress occurs when a person perceives their social relationships to be unfulfilling and lower in quantity and quality than they’d like them to be.
Most of us feel lonely at some point – it’s a normal part of life. The pandemic has resulted in seismic shifts in our working lives. Employees have had to quickly adapt to remote-working which saw them spending their working time in front of screens.
The traditional office set-up has been a hub for knowledge transfer and social cohesion for decades. It provides opportunities to celebrate your success as a team or go directly to someone for guidance when you need help. People are brought together through meetings, and birthday cakes with some of the best ideas often formulated through moments of serendipity; those chance conversations that take place when you are waiting for the office kettle to boil.
It’s important for companies to sit up and take notice of the loneliness epidemic when considering new models of working as loneliness can have serious effects on employees’ mental health, sapping feelings of self-worth, confidence and belonging.
The Mental Health Foundation explored the complexities of loneliness during Mental Health Awareness Week. Its reports found that many people still struggle to talk about how it impacts our mental health and the feelings of shame that can accompany it. It also found that being connected to other people in a meaningful way helps us feel valued. Being part of a team can be fundamental to protecting our mental health.
As we move towards the new normal, the workplace is set to play a pivotal role in building back communities. It is vital for employees that they feel welcome and valued within their workplace and for employers to listen and acknowledge that new ways of working will come with anxieties as well as ambitions.
If you’re feeling lonely, or just fancy a chat then please reach out. Or if you want to learn more about the work we are doing at Optimist Performance, take a look here.