For many, Christmas is seen as a time of joy and celebration. For some though, Christmas can be a lonely time. A survey carried out by the BBC showed that 7% of us will spend Christmas alone. What is surprising is that the feeling of loneliness is not just something the older generation experience. People aged between 18-24 years are equally likely to feel lonely as those aged 65 years plus.
Loneliness can be caused by several factors, the person in question may not live near their family, they may have lost contact with their family, they may be divorced, they may be a carer, they may recently be bereaved, or they lost someone some time ago. Whatever, the reason, Christmas can be a difficult time for them.
Offering support to employees who are feeling lonely will be beneficial to them and the business. According to Psychology Today, loneliness is a major cause of depression and stress. A further study has shown that the number of working days lost through depression, anxiety and stress has increased by 24% over a four year period, costing UK businesses £15.1 billion in lost productivity.
With the festive season just around the corner, we’ve suggested four ways in which you can help support employees who may be feeling lonely this Christmas.
Four ways to support lonely employees:
Foster an open-door policy
The festive season can make someone who is lonely, feel even more isolated and ‘out of the loop’ with everyone else. Promoting an open-door policy during this time will demonstrate to your employees that the opportunity is there for them to talk to their manager(s) if they want too.
Open door policies can provide business-wide benefits. According to the Management Study Guide, an open-door policy promotes two-way communication between managers and employees and increases trust and motivation.
Promote a culture of team relationships
At this time of year, individuals may be focused on meeting deadlines and wrapping up projects before the holidays. Some people may be tempted to put in long solitary hours to meet these deadlines. If possible, spread the workload out amongst others in the business. This will reduce stress and increase team working and communication.
Provide opportunities for teams to mix in a relaxed atmosphere. For instance, on each Friday afternoon during December you could organise a treat for your employees. This could include pizza and drinks being delivered to the office, or you could organise a tasting session of different teas and cakes from around the world.
Provide opportunities for volunteering
Charities are always looking for volunteers, but particularly so around the Christmas period. You could consider giving your employees half a day off to volunteer at a local charity shop or hostel. Not only will it help the charity, it will showcase your business in a good light as well as creating a sense of belonging and reducing isolation for those who volunteer.
Offer external, independent support
If you have the resources, it can be advantageous to provide your employees with access to an external source of expert advice and support. As part of Benenden’s Healthcare for Business product, employees have access to a 24/7 psychological wellbeing helpline, where they can speak to qualified therapists and get the additional support they may need.
Whilst employees may not necessarily want you to know they are feeling lonely, or finding the Christmas period difficult, by following these tips you could provide comfort for those who need it most, without drawing attention to them or singling them out in front of their colleagues.
This content originally appeared on Benenden’s workplace hub where employers can find a range of related articles to help with their health and wellbeing strategy.