Are your team events creating workplace loneliness?

By Robert Half on 2 November 2019

With the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday (5th November), will you be heading out of the office to watch the races with your team? It is after all, notoriously known as “The race that stops the nation”.

Event like these can be a great way to have some fun and build stronger working relationships. But will your whole team be joining you, or will some people be left behind at the office to hold the fort?

It’s often the case that those that get left behind may feel left out, which can lead to or encourage feelings of workplace loneliness. Read this article to find out more about what workplace loneliness is, what the consequences of it are to your business and what you can do to avoid it in the future.

What is workplace loneliness?

Technology may mean that you and your employees are connected to each other more now than ever before, but that doesn’t instantly stop any feelings of loneliness or isolation.

Workplace loneliness is often a result of your employees not having any close and supportive relationships in the workplace. For example, someone to talk to, to have lunch with, or to enjoy Friday night drinks with after a stressful work week.

The feelings of workplace loneliness can also intensify because of new, modern ways of working. Employees increasingly skip lunch breaks in favour of eating at their desk or they choose to work remotely.

In the case of corporate events, workplace loneliness can set in when employees are either excluded or left behind from attending. While the reasons may be genuine to business operations, this feeling still exists, and is something critical for managers to remember.

What are the consequences of workplace loneliness?

Workplace loneliness is a real problem and managers should take steps to address it. There's a chance that more than one employee could have such feelings.

Worryingly, research has revealed that loneliness is linked to a 29% increased risk in having a heart attack and a 32% increased risk in having a stroke. Not only can it have a physical impact on your employees, but it can affect their mental health and your business too. Employees may start to resent their job, be unhappy in their role and become unproductive. As their manager, you may start to see a lower level of output, an increase in staff absenteeism and a rise in staff turnover. At the end of the day, this will all affect your bottom-line.

When it comes to corporate events like the Melbourne Cup, Christmas lunches, summer parties and team days out, these feelings can be encouraged when some staff are not included. It is often those in the back office, such as your IT team, reception staff or admin teams, that get left behind to look after the office. While these teams are often the essential element for ongoing operations, there are ways around this to avoid your staff feeling left out.

5 tips to avoid workplace loneliness

It’s important to tackle workplace loneliness before it becomes a significant problem. To help, here are five tips you could try:

1. Talk about it – Feeling lonely isn’t something your employees may feel confident talking about. It’s important for you to communicate with employees, make them feel comfortable opening up to you and ensuring your door really is always open. It’s also important to know your staff and be able to read the signs, so you can tell when something is wrong. Perhaps you notice that productivity dips or your employees seem less chatty. In these cases, you may need to initiate a private conversation with them.

2. Provide a support system – Whilst some of your employees may instantly make friends, others may struggle to form real connections. Provide a support system where they feel able to talk to other members of your team. A mentor could also act as their go-to person when they need support.

3. Hire a temporary worker – For times like the Melbourne Cup, don’t just pick some employees to go out, whilst leaving others behind to work. So that all staff can participate and not feel left out, you could consider hiring a temporary worker/contractor.

4. Bring the fun to your office – Whether you are enjoying the Melbourne Cup or having some last-minute Christmas festivities, you don’t have to leave the office. Bring some of the fun to your workplace. This means everyone can feel involved, whilst employees can take it in turns to answer the phones or do any other necessary work that can’t be put on hold.

5. Celebrate collectively – When you have a success at work, such as a big sale or a new client, celebrate all together as a team. This can help to drive communication, improve the sense of belonging and increase employee happiness.

Whilst you don’t want your offices coming to a grinding halt, at the end of the day, leaving some essential staff or not including staff for special events can foster a feeling of being left out.

For the upcoming Melbourne Cup, take the time instead to think about how you can create an opportunity to bring your entire team together.

If you’re looking to hire a temporary contractor to fill in for staff, contact us today.

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