Majority of employees say firms should do more to prevent loneliness among flexible workers, poll finds

Staff say they want more mental health support, with experts calling on managers to check in more frequently with their workforce

Nearly three-quarters of office workers believe employers need to do more to address loneliness among those working flexibly, a study has found.

The poll of 1,000 UK workers, conducted in February by Silicon Reef, all of whom worked in an office before the start of the pandemic, found 73 per cent thought it was their firm’s responsibility to do more to tackle loneliness among flexible and remote workers.

Of those surveyed, more than a third (36 per cent) said they themselves had experienced loneliness when working flexibly, with younger workers aged 18 to 36 almost twice as likely as those over the age 55 to feel this way (41 per cent and 24 per cent respectively).

Nearly half (44 per cent) of workers said employers should provide more opportunities for mental health breaks and support, 41 per cent called for more online social interactions and a third (32 per cent) said there needed to be more opportunities of ad hoc communication with colleagues.

Alex Graves, CEO of Silicon Reef, said the research showed loneliness had become a “huge workplace issue” with the increase in flexible and hybrid work. “Many people feel lonely when not in the office and the vast majority think action needs to be taken,” he said.

“Happiness in the workplace is better for everyone: employees, customers and leaders. And it’s better for organisations in general,” he added, citing research from Oxford University that suggested happier workers were 13 per cent more productive.

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As well as loneliness, half (49 per cent) of workers reported feeling a lack of motivation when working away from the office, with a similar percentage reporting feeling disconnected from colleagues (48 per cent). Only a quarter (25 per cent) of people polled said they experienced no drawbacks from working remotely.

The findings come as separate research revealed earlier this week that nearly half of UK workers did not receive any wellbeing check-ins from their employer last year. In a poll of 2,000 people, conducted by Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England, 48 per cent said their workplace had not checked in on their mental health in the past year, up from 25 per cent in 2021.

Rachel Suff, senior employment relations adviser at the CIPD, urged managers to make sure they were setting aside time to check in with their team and ask about their wellbeing. “HR also needs to make sure senior leaders view health and wellbeing as priority and they create a culture where people feel able to talk about any issues they’re having,” she said.