Claire Huish underlines how important community is in the workplace.
According to figures published this April by the Office for National Statistics, 2.4m adult British residents suffer from chronic loneliness. Tipped to become one of Britain’s most lethal conditions, it’s time for managers to start thinking about how they can combat loneliness in the workplace.
With roughly 40 hours a week spent in the office, it’s important that employees are not only supported in their day-to-day activities, but also that they feel part of a team and a community. Senior staff and HR managers need to foster an environment which both celebrates the diversity of the individuals within a company while also giving them a common ground on which to come together.
This means creating support systems and programmes which encourage staff to mingle, socialise and collaborate. The key word here is ‘encourage’ as it’s important not to go full circle and end up with the dreaded ‘compulsory fun’ which is so often seen.
The thing to remember is that each employee is unique and may gain their sense of belonging from different initiatives and activities.
For some, it’s through social bonds while others may feel a more communal connection by working with colleagues to achieve a common goal. It’s all about offering a number of routes through which employees can connect to the work community and allowing them to pick and choose what works best for them.
Tipped to become one of Britain’s most lethal conditions, it’s time for managers to start thinking about how they can combat loneliness in the workplace.
For example, regular social events which allow colleagues to bond in an informal setting can go a long way to building team chemistry and will likely also have a positive effect on their working lives. Organising volunteering opportunities where colleagues work together to complete an altruistic task can also help them connect through a shared sense of achievement.
Another great way to bring the team together is by introducing awards programmes. Whether this be on a team, company or even industry wide scale, recognition can create a strong sense of purpose and belonging as well as giving employees a good excuse to come together and celebrate a job well done.
In large companies it’s easy to feel lonely if there is a perceived disconnect between you and the ‘others’, so it’s important that employers help their staff find common ground from which they can build strong working relationships.
As well as building communities within the office, it can also be extremely helpful to encourage staff to connect to their industry as a whole. This could be through trade shows, training courses or even networking events. As well as being part of a company, integrating employees into part of the wider industry allows them to more easily understand where they fit, in the grand scheme of things.
The common link here is communication. It’s a key component of building connections and driving a sense of community, whether this be in the form of social media posts which share what colleagues have been up to, direct recognition for a job well done or even social initiatives which encourage teamwork.
Having strong communication processes makes a huge difference and should be a major consideration for any company focussed on building a sense of belonging.
The main thing to remember is that each employee is unique and has different needs. It’s the role of a good manager to understand and influence the dynamics of their team to get the best out of its members. That means ensuring everyone feels included, has a sense of purpose and is aware of their role in the greater company sphere.
After all, a strong community can only work when the varied needs of its members are met.
About the author
Claire Huish is colleague services manager at Bennett Hay