HOW COVID-19 INCREASED WORKPLACE LONELINESS

HOW COVID-19 INCREASED WORKPLACE LONELINESS

HOW COVID-19 INCREASED WORKPLACE LONELINESS

Feelings of isolation, anxiety and low self-esteem are all exacerbated by loneliness.  Loneliness at work can have major consequences for organisations, including employee turnover, decreased commitment, and poor performance.  The issue of workplace loneliness isn’t new, but it has become more prominent since COVID-19. Could the pandemic be responsible for this increase in loneliness?

COVID has caused organisations to make rational financial decisions to stay afloat, but this should not come at the expense of employee wellbeing. Organisations have been forced to restructure, dilution or make cuts in the workplace.  During the pandemic, restructures or job cuts have resulted in more and more workers becoming lone workers.

MORNING TO NIGHT – ALONE

Employees who were working in a busy office before the pandemic has stayed away from work. Yet organisations are unaccustomed to dealing with the loneliness of home-working: we observe inadequate systems, a lack of resources, lack of access to support, and poor communication. It may have escaped the attention of organisations that some workers go home to nobody, see nobody all day, and wake up to see nobody. Whenever lone/remote working is reviewed, this increased isolation should be taken into account. Worker perception surveys can help identify those who need more interaction at work and prefer to work from home.

Bricklayers, electricians, and plumbers, who work in two- or three-person teams, may now find themselves working alone full-time. Almost all other workers in every sector face different circumstances than those before the COVID, which could lead to loneliness if organizations fail to address this issue.

HERE TO STAY

Start by reviewing the impacts of decisions and employee expectations. In addition, it is important to consider ways to make things better: reward collaboration, enhance communication and reduce expectations. It seems as if hybrid working, smaller teams and workplace loneliness are here to stay as the economy recovers. We must act now and make it our duty to ensure we have accounted for this and its impacts and safeguard our workers in every way possible.

Are there other risks to these newly lone workers as well? More expectations, more demands, and more risk result from fewer workers at the same rate of production. The argument could be used by workers to support their argument for remaining in a team. There may be a possibility, though, that only the workers’ perception of safety has changed now that they are not surrounded by a team? How can organisations reassure workers, alleviate their fears, and support them if this is the case? Must risk assessments take loneliness into account?

Irrespective of how we manage loneliness, we need to recognise that this issue is here to stay – so the sooner we move in the right direction to address this problem, the better.

coronavirus, virus, mask-4914028.jpg