Do unlocked Covid restrictions reduce the number of those that are lonely, working at home?

This month sees adjustments made to Covid-19 restrictions in several UK countries. We consider the effect on home working, and loneliness.

As various parts of the UK begin to roll back some of the Covid restrictions [1] previously put in place this week, we wondered how this is likely to affect the situation for those of us that remain working at home, many of whom who may be experiencing loneliness after over a year of being away from the office, combined with the various social restrictions overlapping that time.

Lonely working from home: How will it change moving forwards?

People being lonely working at home has indeed been well publicised as it has become a much better-understood topic since the beginning of the pandemic. Studies still show that many people are still working from home as they were during the first peak of the pandemic. With those that are perhaps not now doing so on a full-time basis, many are opting to move to a hybrid model where they remain home working for at least 60% of the time [2].

For those preferring lone working at home in an ongoing sense, there have also been reports around discussions to give employees a legal right to work at home in perpetuity, although this certainly has not exactly been welcomed with open arms from within the private sector [3]. Clearly, legislation is a serious step, and many would see it as unnecessary when employers have mostly been accommodating to facilitate their mobile teams working remotely where possible.

Despite the various unlocking of restrictions currently taking place, there are still the ongoing adjustments that are required for any lone workers looking to re-enter the physical workplace:

  • Using public transport remains a concern for some individuals
  • Distancing and mask policies are now being relaxed slightly, but vary across public spaces
  • Track and Trace remains a focus of comment, as some are anxious about having to isolate
  • Many workplaces are now open but remain at reduced capacity to ensure distancing

Workplace loneliness: Most keenly felt by those also living alone?

People who both live alone and work from home are cited as being most at risk of loneliness and/or depression. Indeed, links have been made to higher levels of stress [4] in personnel that are working from home – of which loneliness is a clear and contributing factor. Higher stress levels can lead to:

  • Greater instances of sickness and absence
  • Increased management time spent on resolving issues
  • The need for temporary staff or increased overtime to cover
  • Greater turnover of staff
  • Higher recruitment costs
  • Loss of knowledge in the business
  • Increase in resources needed for training and onboarding new personnel

In terms of employer responsibilities and advice from the HSE (Health & Safety Executive), the duty of care owed to staff is the same for homeworkers [5] – therefore, employers of people working from home, should consider:

  • How to keep in touch and stay connected
  • What work activity is being carried out, and for how long
  • Can the work be done safely?
  • Are control measures required to protect the worker?

Lone workers: How to beat loneliness and feel connected:

Unlocking will undoubtedly give greater opportunities for lone working colleagues to get together, but for those that are home working some or part of the time, here are a few options to consider for avoiding loneliness working alone:

  • Try to have at least one day a week working in the office, or perhaps just in a different environment
  • If you can, get outside for a walk or some fresh air periodically
  • Be proactive – try to plan social interactions with colleagues ahead of time
  • Use video calling when you can, as it’s good to see a friendly face
  • When you talk to other remote colleagues, try to leave a short time of the meeting to talk about non-work matters, even for just a few minutes.
For more tips and advice, take a look at our blog: Working from Home Policy: Health and safety checklist.


[1] Covid rules from 19 July: What has changed?
[2] Working from home is revolutionising the UK labour market
[3] CBI and City bosses warn against giving staff legal right to work from home
[4] Revealed: rise in stress among those working from home
[5] Personal Safety for Home Workers

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