The Signs of Loneliness: A Quantifiable Employee Problem In a WFH World

Benefit Trends Executive Health August 26, 2021

The recent movement toward hybrid and fully remote work has brought plenty of pros, but it can also have a dark side. Without an office to congregate in, leaders may start to see signs of loneliness among their teams.

While loneliness and isolation may have once seemed like abstract concepts — hard to observe and measure — their prevalence in a work from home (WFH) world has forced human resources departments to take notice.

Loneliness: A threat to the remote workforce

How many employees have felt isolated or lonely when working from home? In an ominous sign for employers, nearly half report these feelings. While the exact numbers differ by country, 49% of global workers said they are lonely or isolated while working from home.[1]

Of course, one answer to WFH loneliness is to bring the office back full time, but for many companies and their workforces, flexibility and remote work are good things. When asked whether they want to continue to have the ability to work from home, 76% of employees say yes, with an average preference of two WFH days a week.[2]

To preserve this mutually beneficial arrangement, businesses must be vigilant about looking for signs of loneliness. This is a slightly complex process because isolation is a condition with a combined mental and physical impact. When people perceive themselves as socially isolated, they feel loneliness, and this can have an adverse impact on well-being.[3]

Elevated stress levels, trouble with sleep, exacerbated anxiety or depression: These are a few of the effects of loneliness on the body.[4] While workers may enjoy the freedoms and flexibility of working from their own homes, the toll of isolation can wipe out these gains. Considering the high incidence rates of self-reported loneliness, companies must get proactive about keeping their employees connected.

Ways to combat signs of loneliness

Considering how deeply ingrained WFH has become, it’s more than appropriate for HR departments and companies to create formalized strategies to keep their remote workers healthy and happy. These efforts will be key to easing employee loneliness, and they can include a few important elements:

  • Formal WFH plans that include communication: Rather than leaving WFH employees to their own devices, leaders can and should give them structured virtual environments that encourage them to talk and interact.[5] Formal work schedules that make employees take downtime may also be valuable, giving them time to reconnect with people outside of work.
  • Open lines of contact with management and HR: In addition to talking to one another, employees should feel unafraid to bring their problems to their supervisors, to speak out about their WFH experiences. When team members feel their issues will be addressed empathetically instead of dismissed, they can feel less isolated.
  • Benefits and care that acknowledge mental health: Identifying isolation and loneliness can be very instructive for HR departments seeking to better care for modern employees. These are mental conditions that may have physical effects. From subsidized health and wellness programs to specialized supplemental insurance coverage, businesses can invest in offerings that support employee mental health conditions directly.

ArmadaCare’s WellPak suite of complementary health insurance plans focus on employee mental health and well-being. WellPak works alongside a primary health insurance plan to help today’s flexible workers thrive. Learn more.

[1]World Economic Forum, 2021

[2]Global Workplace Analytics, 2020

[3]Business Insider, 2020

[4]American Psychological Association, 2019

[5]Aalborg University, 2021

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