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Let’s Talk: Creating a social workplace

Two colleagues working together

In 2015 a survey by Relate discovered that 4 in 10 people have no close friends at work. As we spend around a third of our lives at work, loneliness in the workplace has the potential to impact on our mental wellbeing.

Having someone to talk to when you’re feeling stressed or frustrated about both work and home life is important to your overall wellbeing. It helps to reduce stress, which can have a negative impact on physical and mental health.

Break the silence

Not everyone who spends time alone is lonely, but if you notice a colleague seems uncharacteristically quiet or down you can try to reach out to them.

Ask them if they fancy joining you for lunch, offer them a cup of tea or strike up a casual conversation. Avoid pointing out that you’ve noticed they’re eating lunch alone or being quiet as this may make them feel self-conscious.

If they turn down your offer, don’t put pressure on them – not everyone wants to be sociable at work.

Opening up

If your colleague opens up to you about issues at work or a mental health problem:

  • Listen to them and wait until they’ve finished what they have to say
  • Try to avoid making assumptions about how they feel
  • Ask simple, open and non-judgemental questions, but don’t push them to share personal details if they don’t want to
  • Let them know that you’re there to speak to if they need it
  • Remember that you don’t have to fix things

If you’re worried about a colleague then you could try suggesting that they contact Ben. They can ring our free and confidential helpline on 08081 311 333 (open Monday to Friday, 8am-8pm) or use our online chat.

Managing colleagues

If you’re a manager then it’s important to have regular one-to-one catch-ups with those you manage.

Ensure you ask how they’re doing and let them know that they can come to you if they have any issues. You can find out more about supporting staff and spotting signs they may need help on our blog.

You can also encourage employees to take lunch breaks or try organising the odd activity outside of work hours, such as a trip to the local pub. Work is a great opportunity to meet friends and build a social network of people, so encourage this as much as possible within your team.

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