As mental health and workplace wellness get more attention from the media and the general public, loneliness is emerging as a specific concern Loneliness not only affects quality of life, but creates problems at work, even among behavioral health staff.
What causes workplace loneliness?
In spite of open-office plans and increased connectivity, workers are lonelier than ever. This makes sense when you consider that technology has decreased the need for face-to-face interaction. Plus, more employees are working remotely, including in telehealth.
Behavioral health and addiction treatment professionals specifically face stress from helping individuals with complex, difficult needs. Privacy rules and other ethical boundaries limit clinicians’ ability to express concerns about patients or colleagues.
Staff also struggle with heavy administrative workloads and unique regulatory burdens, which may contribute to feelings of isolation. All this adds up to a strong potential for loneliness among behavioral health workers.
What are some effects of workplace loneliness?
CNN Business recently pointed out that workplace loneliness contributes to a variety of problems:
Reduced productivity, which can increase stress for individuals and hurt a bottom line
Lonely people may isolate themselves, potentially limiting workplace connections, communication, and teamwork
The spread of negative feelings and attitudes, reducing morale and increasing turnover
What are possible signs of workplace loneliness?
Loneliness can be difficult to recognize, especially if a person is trying to avoid appearing weak or feeling embarrassed. Signs to watch for among employees and coworkers include:
Falling productivity, including increased failure to meet deadlines
Lack of participation in meetings or social events without apparent reason
Limited or no response to group messages
Appearing tense or irritable with coworkers or clients
Taking more sick days than usual
Appearing to deliberately avoid interaction
What should behavioral health leaders do about workplace loneliness?
Loneliness has wide-reaching effects beyond the individual, so office managers and other behavioral health leaders should take steps to combat workplace loneliness.
Make sure new providers or administrative staff receive a personal onboarding experience, including thorough introductions and ongoing support.
Follow up with employees. Months after being hired, keep checking in periodically to make sure they feel connected and their needs are being addressed.
Show appreciation. Many employees feel lonely when they feel that they are not making a difference or their work is unnoticed. Gestures can be small, such as a short email or note to say thanks, or publicly acknowledging them for a job well done.
Encourage occasional outside gatherings, such as happy hours, employee lunches, holiday parties, or other casual get-togethers. Make sure everyone is explicitly invited.
Deliberately solicit employee input to keep them engaged. This is important for remote workers who may occasionally feel forgotten or isolated.
Communicate face-to-face when possible, rather than sending a message.
Make small efforts to get to know people, such as asking about their families or interests.
Encourage communication and teamwork with the right EHR
You don’t have to do without health IT to combat workplace loneliness. With the right EHR solution, behavioral health and addiction treatment providers can communicate more effectively, encourage teamwork, and boost productivity.
BestNotes EHR was developed specifically to help behavioral health practices stay streamlined and cost-effective without sacrificing employee well-being. Contact us today to learn more about how BestNotes can help you improve your care, track patient outcomes, and boost practice revenue.