Loneliness in Older Employees: Can Something Be Done To Reduce WFH Isolation For the Elderly?

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Photo Credits - Alex Boyd via Unsplash

Loneliness, a pervasive issue affecting older individuals globally, has gained attention in various contexts. 

From innovative solutions in Dutch supermarkets to the unique challenges faced by older employees in remote working environments, the impact of loneliness isolation on mental health and overall well-being cannot be understated.

Loneliness Isolation Among Older People: The Dutch Supermarket Initiative

In the Netherlands, the issue of loneliness among the elderly prompted Jumbo, a leading grocery chain, to introduce a heartwarming initiative – “Chat Checkouts” or “Kletskassa.” This innovative approach, born out of the Dutch government’s “One Against Loneliness” campaign, provides a social space within supermarkets for customers, particularly seniors, to engage in meaningful conversations with cashiers.

Statistics Netherlands reveals that 33% of adults over 75 in the Netherlands feel at least moderately lonely. Jumbo’s “Chat Checkouts” address this issue by slowing down the checkout process, and encouraging cashiers to take the time for chit-chat and small talk.

This initiative, supported by Colette Cloosterman-van Eerd, CCO of Jumbo and a member of the National Coalition Against Loneliness, goes beyond being just a supermarket. It aims to create inclusive spaces where loneliness isolation is actively tackled through human connections.

READ: Psychological Safety and Employer Duty: How to Curb Psychological Stress to Ensure Happier Workplaces

Isolation in a WFH Setup for Older Workers: A Significant Challenge

As the workforce landscape evolves, remote working, or WFH (Working From Home), has become the norm for many. However, this shift, while beneficial for some, presents unique challenges, especially for older employees. 

For Baby Boomers and older generations accustomed to traditional office settings, the transition to remote work can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Further, this can lead to depression and feeling lonely. 

The WFH setup, a significant change for older employees, can result in increased feelings of loneliness and isolation. Unlike the traditional office environment, where social interactions are inherent, remote working demands a deliberate effort to maintain connections.

Employers must recognise the potential impact of this isolation on the mental health of older workers. Loneliness in a WFH context can contribute to depression and feelings of isolation, emphasising the importance of addressing this concern proactively.

Addressing Loneliness in Remote Working: Strategies for Employers

Reducing feelings of isolation among older workers in a remote working scenario requires a thoughtful and empathetic approach from employers. Here are key strategies to consider:

  • Regular Virtual Check-Ins:

Establishing regular virtual check-ins through video calls can provide a sense of connection. These sessions offer a platform for casual conversations, replicating the social interactions that often occur in an office setting.

  • Inclusive Digital Platforms:

Creating inclusive digital platforms that facilitate not only work-related discussions but also casual chats can foster a sense of community. Encouraging the use of such platforms for both professional and personal interactions can bridge the gap created by physical distance.

  • Mentorship Programs:

Implementing mentorship programs that pair older workers with younger colleagues can contribute to a supportive work environment. This not only provides a channel for knowledge transfer but also encourages intergenerational relationships, reducing feelings of isolation.

  • Flexible Work Hours:

Offering flexible work hours allows older employees to align their work schedules with their preferred times for social engagement. This flexibility acknowledges the importance of work-life balance, contributing to improved mental well-being.

  • Social Events and Activities:

Organising virtual social events and activities, such as online team-building exercises or themed virtual gatherings, can inject an element of fun into the remote working experience. These initiatives help build camaraderie among team members, fostering a sense of belonging. 

  • Mental Health Support:

Providing access to mental health support resources and services is crucial. Employers can offer counselling services or share information about mental health helplines to ensure that older workers have avenues to address any emotional challenges they may face.

  • Recognition and Appreciation:

Regularly acknowledging and appreciating the contributions of older workers can boost morale. Public recognition in virtual meetings or through digital platforms helps combat feelings of invisibility and reinforces the value they bring to the team.

READ: Could Fitness-Related Office Perks Improve Employee Productivity?

Human Connections in the Age of Remote Working

In an era dominated by digital interactions, the significance of human connections cannot be overstated. Whether through innovative supermarket initiatives like Jumbo’s “Chat Checkouts” or strategic approaches by employers to address loneliness in a WFH setup, the common thread is the recognition of the impact of isolation on mental health.

As we navigate the evolving landscape of work, employers must prioritise the well-being of older workers. By implementing thoughtful strategies that foster connection and inclusivity, organisations can contribute to reducing loneliness and creating a work environment where every employee, regardless of age, feels valued and supported. Ultimately, to curb depression and feeling lonely. 

Redmans Solicitors and their team of expert employment lawyers can offer advice and guidance on employment law matters. Contact their employment law specialists today!

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