HR blogs don’t often start by quoting Britney Spears songs but in her massive debut hit, Baby One More Time, the chorus starts with the line, “my loneliness is killing me”. Maybe it was a throwaway line, maybe it was a thinly veiled insight into the life of a star but a study by the University of Chicago in 2014 actually found that loneliness increases your chances of premature death by 14% and so maybe Britney was right all along.

Loneliness is the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week and given the isolation we have all endured in the last two years it is a pertinent subject. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has Love & Belonging as the third level of our needs and so it is crucial that we have a sense of family, friendship, community and connection in our lives in order to avoid loneliness and it effects.

Who we connect with and how we connect varies from person to person and depends on many factors. The advent of social media has created a way of connecting like never before but is that real connection? You can have hundreds of “friends” or followers and still be lonely and isolated. Some people have a small circle of friends but due to geography and lifestyle they may only see each other sporadically and again a sense of seclusion can result from this. Colleagues are often obvious connections but how many of us have worked in the same office as a co-worker and known little more about them than their name? You can even be surrounded by friends and family and still endure a sense of loneliness.

Our personality is also likely to dictate how we connect, introverts naturally enjoy their own company and need their own time and space to process their world and energise themselves, that doesn’t mean that introverts are predetermined to be lonely but it is often more of an effort for introverts to avoid loneliness. On the surface extroverts find connecting much easier as they are typical social butterflies but loneliness can be an issue due to the lack of depth and quality of relationships.

Whoever you are and whatever your personality though, connection is vital. Loneliness can quickly impact on your overall wellbeing and lead to anxiety and depression and so recognising the signs in yourself and others and acting upon them will help. Loneliness can be overcome with some simple steps. Reach out to people if you feel lonely or you think they are lonely, a simple text, WhatsApp message or a quick phone call that comes from a place of genuine connection and compassion can mean the world. Create opportunities in your work and personal life to start conversations, meet up with friends you haven’t seen in a while, go for a walk at lunchtime with a colleague or have a chat over the fence with a neighbour.

If you need more support around loneliness and managing your mental health then there are lots of resources and services available on the following links,

Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 – Mental Health UK (mentalhealth-uk.org)

Home – Mind

Samaritans | Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy | Here to listen

CALM Homepage | Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) (thecalmzone.net)

Mental Health Support Network provided by Chasing the Stigma | Hub of hope

Your company might also have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) which offers a free, confidential helpline service or they may have trained Mental Health First Aiders who you can find support from if you are struggling. The main thing is to start a conversation and not to feel like you have to struggle alone.

Do you have questions about loneliness, mental health or employee wellbeing?

Give us a call at CUBE HR 01282 678321, we’ll be happy to advise you and we have policies and templates available to meet every HR need.

Why not check out our blog on a similar topic Employee Wellbeing – Top Tips

We also have a YouTube channel with loads of handy videos