Celebrating National Mental Health Awareness Week: What can employers do to tackle loneliness in the workplace?

lonely female woman working from home

Article by Paul Graham, Managing Director, Britvic

According to the charity, Campaign to End Loneliness, 45% of adults in the UK say they occasionally or often feel lonely. This equates to 25 million people.

For such a seemingly wide-reaching issue, it is strange loneliness is still not talked about that frequently or openly. Indeed, the figures suggest we probably all have a family member, friend, neighbour or colleague who is experiencing loneliness right this second. That’s why I wanted to take some time this Mental Health Awareness Week to discuss what role we as employers can play to help address loneliness in the workplace.

At Britvic, caring about people and supporting their physical and mental wellbeing is at the very core of our business. As a result, we want to be as proactive as possible in tackling issues such as loneliness and considering the impact on people’s overall mental health and wellbeing. Here are four examples of what we are doing currently:  

  1. Creating a welcoming working environment by prioritising diversity and inclusion

I believe that one of the most important ways employers can tackle loneliness in the workplace is by creating and fostering an environment where everyone feels like they belong. A big part of this is about celebrating employees for who they are while also educating the entire workforce on the importance of diversity and inclusion.

At Britvic, we have established our Belonging Network which emphasises acceptance and equality. Our four principles (B-Diverse, B-Empowered, B-Proud and B-Seen) help us not only to attract diverse talent, but also retain it. We’ve created self-nominated groups to ensure that we are committed to many different aspects of diversity and inclusion and all our employees feel heard. We believe this helps to create a culture where every employee feels they can bring their true self to work.

We also use national awareness days and weeks to celebrate diversity and inclusion. Last month, for example, we participated in Neurodiversity Celebration Week and had a video interview with people within the business who had personal stories to share on this topic. We will also be highlighting Autistic Pride Day in June to help highlight the importance of neurodiversity in the workplace and the ways in which different styles of thinking and working can lead to business benefits.

  1. Providing the right internal resources and support mechanisms

Another way businesses can help address loneliness in the workplace is by having the right resources and support mechanisms in place for isolated employees who have nowhere else to turn. We offer a number of different services at Britvic. Our dedicated employee helpline, for example, is operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and helps people with many mental health-related issues. This includes stress, specialist counselling and support for those who are bereaved. It means employees always have someone to speak to, regardless of whether it is related to work or not.

Additionally, we also provide employees with access to digital resources to support their wellbeing and encourage social connection. During the pandemic, we launched Project Phoenix, a portal which provided our people with support in dealing with new working patterns and helped them to stay connected and embrace new ways of working as a team even when they were apart. Our wellbeing app, Lifeworks, on the other hand, provides exclusive employee discounts and ideas for fitness activities which promote better physical health while also helping people stay connected to others in their local community.

  1. Equipping employees with the right skills and training

While having resources in place is key, it’s also important to be able to identify employees who might be struggling in order to be able to direct them to the right help and support. At Britvic we provide training to help our employees recognise when someone on their team is struggling with a mental-health related difficulty. This can minimise the impacts of poor mental health and stress by ensuring employers are given the right support as early on as possible.

Our Wellbeing Warriors programme is made up of around 30 employee volunteers who are trained in all the support and services we offer and are therefore able to point colleagues in the direction of the right resources. This means we can respond promptly to people’s needs, making them feel listened to and understood. We also have 32 employees who are trained in mental health first aid by Mental Health First Aid England. This course has helped to equip these employees with the practical skills necessary to spot signs and symptoms of someone experiencing mental health difficulties or emotional distress.

  1. Focusing on output over hours

Finally, in order to support employees who are experiencing loneliness, it’s also important to consider how we can enrichen people’s’ lives outside of work as well as in the office. For us, this is about helping employees find the right work/life balance and encouraging them to step away from their computer screens and make time for real-life connections. To address this, our new, dynamic Working Well programme focuses on output over hours, encouraging people to work well while also giving them more free time to do things that spark joy.

As part of the Working Well initiative, we have also redesigned our working environment, positioning the office as a space to collaborate, share ideas and socialise instead of simply a place to work. For example, the layout offers tables in strategic formats which take centre stage, to encourage colleagues to interact, brainstorm, and co-create when they’re in the office.

Paul GrahamAbout the author

Paul Graham is the Managing Director for Britvic in Great Britain, having held this position since 2012. Prior to Britvic, he worked in a range of commercial roles at both Mars Confectionery and United Biscuits. Paul’s involvement within the soft drinks industry led to him be elected as President of the British Soft Drinks Association in 2021. Paul holds a degree in Management Sciences from The University of Manchester.

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