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Three quarters of UK office workers demand action against loneliness

by Jessica Weisman-Pitts
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Over a third have experienced sadness from isolation, the hidden impact of hybrid working

23 March 2022: New research from collaboration technology consultancy, Silicon Reef, shows nearly three quarters of office workers (73%) are calling on employers to address loneliness among those working flexibly.

Employees see it as the responsibility of leaders to take action, and believe this should include introducing opportunities for mental breaks and support (44%) and more social online interaction with employees (41%). A fifth (19%) even think software developments like the metaverse would help.

Over a third (36%) of office workers have themselves experienced loneliness when working flexibly. The issue gets even worse for younger age groups. Nearly twice the number of 18-34 year olds (41%) experienced loneliness compared to those aged over 55 (24%). Northern Ireland has the loneliest workers (54%) compared to 31% in London.

But loneliness isn’t the only problem. Half of all workers felt either a lack of motivation (49%) or disconnection from colleagues (48%). Just a quarter (25%) had felt none of the negative impacts they were questioned about. This has made it harder for them to concentrate (51%), communicate with colleagues (46%) and reduced their sense of productivity (42%).

In this context, two fifths (40%) of employees have taken to working in a location other than the office or at home at least once a month – with most (29%) opting to do so at least once a week. Over a quarter (28%) say they opt for a “third workplace” to stave off loneliness or a feeling of being hemmed in and constricted.

Interestingly, cafes and gardens are more popular than co-working spaces. Many people chose unusual places. This included pubs (14%), cars (11%) and even in a tent or caravan (7%).

With people taking matters into their own hands to address their loneliness, many also feel technology is still lagging behind. Half (50%) believe some aspects of remote and hybrid working were introduced hastily and need to change.

Specifically, workers want better ways to message and feel engaged with their team (29%), better ways to join meetings remotely without interruptions (19%) and better ways to share documents quickly and securely (17%). Just 10% of respondents felt none of the technology options put to them would help.

Commenting on the findings, Silicon Reef’s CEO, Alex Graves, says, “Our research clearly shows that loneliness has become a huge workplace issue in the wake of hybrid and flexible working. And people want action. Leaders should take note, because if left to get worse, we’ll have an unhappy workforce and that’s no good for anyone – workers, leaders, customers and wider society.

“By getting the right technology in place, along with other important steps, we can combat the loneliness epidemic and help people to work happy. Software won’t solve everything on its own, but it’s a vital piece of the puzzle – and a good place for employers to start. It offers practical and very tangible help.”

Further details of the survey along with advice about how to address loneliness are available from Silicon Reef in its report, “Loneliness; the hidden impact of hybrid working.”