Loneliness Awareness Week: how HR can encourage Random Acts of Connection in summary:

  • This year’s Loneliness Awareness Week provides HR professionals a brilliant engagement opportunity to help build better connected workforces.
  • To combat loneliness, people professionals should help line managers nurture regular communications and informal check-ins with their staff.
  • In addition, celebrating personal achievements and milestones, looking out for your new hires and leveraging HR technology can also help reduce feelings of isolation or loneliness within a workforce.

Despite all of us living in a massively interconnected society, loneliness is a problem that affects a huge number of people here in the UK.

According to latest ONS data, over 3 million people in the UK experience feelings of loneliness on a regular basis. In fact, those aged between 16-29 are over twice as likely to report feeling lonely often or always than those aged over 70 (9.7% versus 3.7%), with those aged between 30-49 close behind at 8.2%. And unfortunately, these numbers look to be rising.

Whilst we might not be experiencing the enforced isolations of the COVID-19 pandemic (remember that?!), it seems many people simply still feel detached from everyday social interactions – and the world of work is no different. For instance, a survey by Glassdoor found over half of employees they spoke to felt lonely all or most of the time.

Loneliness Awareness Week How HR Can Encourage Random Acts of Connection Cezanne

Rather worryingly, the same survey also revealed that more than a quarter (28%) of employees across all ages believe companies are now more anti-social than before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting that workplace social lives have yet to recover from the disruption of COVID-19.

Thankfully, helping shine a light on the problems of isolation and feeling alone is the annual Loneliness Awareness Week campaign.

Loneliness Awareness Week: highlighting the silent struggle

Established in 2017 by UK charity The Marmalade Trust, the campaign aims to raise awareness about loneliness, reduce the stigma associated with it, and encourage people to build connections through more open conversations on the subject.

Each year, the awareness initiative gains more followers, involving a growing number of organisations, charities, and individuals across the UK and beyond. It also focuses on specific themes to highlight the problem of loneliness, with 2024’s theme being ‘Random Acts of Connection’. The week provides people professionals the perfect engagement opportunity to help nurture more sociable and supporting working environments… and with good reason!

Loneliness is much more than just a personal issue. It’s something employers should pay special attention to – especially in an age where remote and flexible working are now commonplace. It can significantly impact the bottom line of a business due to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism and even higher staff turnover rates. Plus, employees who feel isolated are less engaged, less motivated, are more likely to experience burnout.

So, what can you do as a people professional to combat loneliness in your company, and encourage more random acts of connection within your own workforce?

Here are some top tips nurture a more connected workforce this Loneliness Awareness Week:

1. Promote open and regular communications

Perhaps the simplest way you can prevent employees feeling lonely is to nurture regular communications between people and teams. This is particularly true if you have a large proportion of remote workers, or employees who work offsite or irregular hours.

One way you can do this is by encouraging your line managers to have regular check-ins with their teams: but, these don’t have to be formal performance check-ins or 1-1s. They can simply be informal chats to see how work is going, discuss any difficulties employees may be coming up against, or just checking in to see how people are. Doing this can both maintain and nurture a sense of belonging and community within a workforce, which leads neatly onto…

2. Encourage informal meetups

Encourage your departments to have more causal meetups, either during or outside of work hours. These can include coffee breaks, in-person (or virtual) lunches or team building activities that promote those all-important social interactions.

Of course, you may find not everyone wants to participate in more social activities at work – especially if they’re outside regular hours or far from where they live. But, the point here is to help everyone within a workforce feel both included and welcome – and preventing them feeling lonely and isolated.

3. Celebrate personal milestones and achievements

Celebrating personal milestones and achievements is a fantastic way to build a sense of community at work – and these don’t have to be limited to workplace accomplishments.  Marking people’s birthdays, personal achievements or milestones from inside or outside of work shows that the company genuinely cares about its people, boosting morale and motivation. When employees feel recognised and appreciated, they’re more engaged and happier in their roles.

Celebrations and acknowledgments can also help reduce feelings of isolation, making everyone feel a little better connected and part of a supportive team. Plus, recognising personal milestones can strengthen team bonds, encouraging collaboration and loyalty among colleagues, too.

4. Implement a peer-to-peer recognition programme

A good company culture supports the work-based efforts of its people. When people go above and beyond the call of duty or excel in their roles, acknowledging their efforts is an excellent way to combat feelings of isolation or loneliness.

A peer-to-peer recognition scheme can support a more connected workforce by empowering your employees to highlight the achievements and efforts of their colleagues. Recognising peers helps build stronger interpersonal relationships and creates an environment where everyone feels seen and appreciated, enhancing overall job satisfaction and reducing feelings of isolation. You can read more about peer-to-peer recognition schemes here.

5. Create a buddy system for your new hires

Starting a new role can be a daunting prospect for anyone. And, if a new hire has potentially left friends and colleagues from a previous role, they may feel quite isolated and alone. In fact, our report into the state of onboarding in the UK discovered poor onboarding processes left 42% of new hires feeling isolated or not part of a team.

The last thing any business needs is precious new talent feeling isolated or alone during their critical first weeks and months. So, if you have new starters this Loneliness Awareness Week, consider pairing them with buddies to help them integrate into your workforce and feel supported. This is especially important for any new hires who may work remotely or off-site.

6. Leverage the power of HR systems

Lastly, solid HR systems can be an excellent weapon in the fight against workplace loneliness. This is because they enable seamless communications via shared workspaces and HR portals, facilitates social interactions, and provide valuable insights into employee wellbeing through advanced data analytics.

Take the Cezanne HR system, for example. With its built-in shared workspaces and portals, every portal can have its own content, such as videos, links, documents and newsfeeds, and participants. This means you can engage your whole workforce or specific groups of employees – building and maintaining those vital connections between employees.

Give your employees a personalised experience with Cezanne HR and Payroll software

Kim Holdroyd author image

Kim Holdroyd

HR & Wellbeing Manager

Kim Holdroyd has an MSc in HRM and is passionate about all things HR and people operations, specialising in the employee life cycle, company culture, and employee empowerment. Her career background has been spent with various industries, including technology start-ups, gaming software, and recruitment.

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