Creating a community to beat loneliness at work
Written by Jen Smith
Loneliness. It’s a tough topic to talk about, and something we probably wouldn’t like to admit that we’ve felt. We’d worry it would make people feel sorry for us or make them think we have no friends or no social life. And yet, as described by the Mental Health Foundation, loneliness is affecting millions of people in the UK every year and is a key driver of poor mental health, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Of course, Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdowns certainly brought it to the forefront of our minds. Used to the buzz and energy of our creative office, being stuck indoors was a major step-change. At Eulogy, we employed initiatives such as virtual coffee roulette, with a rota to make sure that colleagues could stay in touch with one another on a deeper level than client work. Making sure everyone had a chance to speak to others in the business, those outside of their teams – people that weren’t necessarily those same faces they were used to on Zoom calls – was crucial for us to combat that feeling of loneliness.
Our office is now open, but it’s not a magic cure. Loneliness is a normal part of life, a feeling that can really affect a person’s sense of self-worth and belonging. It most certainly doesn’t come from a lack of friends or having too much time alone. In fact, it is defined by the Mental Health Foundation as “the feeling we experience when there is a mismatch between the social connections we have and those that we need or want”. Which means, it is different for all of us.
As People Manager at Eulogy, whilst I can’t fix loneliness, my priority is to ensure that we are creating an inclusive environment where we foster opportunities to really connect with each other, and grow a sense of belonging. The kind of belonging as described by our Managing Director, Phil Borge-Slavnich, makes the agency feel like home.
We have invested in special mental health resources: a wellbeing app available to all, trained Mental Health First Aiders, and we schedule ‘be kind’ time every day to remind people to disconnect from their devices, talk to their friends on the phone, take a walk, and do whatever it is that they need to feel good. We also offer unlimited holiday which makes it much easier for everyone to find the time they need across the year to relax, to be present with family, or to seek their own adventure.
Though we operate a hybrid working policy, our office is accessible 24/7, so there is always someone around to grab a coffee with. We have the usual buddy and line manager relationships, and we have ‘home teams’ within the business to ensure that once a week, a group of people come together for meetings and give themselves some time away from that often-dreaded Teams ringtone. Every month we have a social gathering, and to be fully inclusive and meet the needs and wants of all our staff, we don’t just head down to the pub, we do things. We play football or ping pong, we do karaoke (badly), make pottery, and choose activities that create real moments of connection, things outside just ‘going for drinks’.
Those moments are the ones which truly strengthen our relationships: the times we come together to beat our Chairman at pool; the times we share pictures of our dog, or discover our mutual love of a 90s band. Really getting to know each other is what has allowed our team of Eulogites to create a warm and welcoming community, in an agency where I am thankful to never feel lonely.