Employers from across the UK have met with the Jo Cox Commission in London to look at the impacts of loneliness and isolation. The Co-op Group, which has been campaigning on the issue, is the only business to actually sit on the commission.
Research from the Group found that the UK’s loneliness epidemic costs employers £2.5bn a year, with people who are lonely five times more likely than others to leave their job within a year.
Compiled by the New Economics Foundation, the Cost of Loneliness to UK Employers calculates that this employee turnover costs businesses £1.62bn a year and reduced productivity amounts to a further £665m annually.
Days lost from colleagues with caring responsibilities for those with health conditions attributed to loneliness costs £220m while lost working days from those experiencing loneliness amounts to £20m.
With over 30 million individuals employed in the UK, the total cost of loneliness translates into an average cost of at least £82 per year per employee.
This figure could be even higher as in all cases the researchers adopted conservative assumptions and only focussed on the more direct costs to employers. It did not, for example, include the increased cost to the NHS of treating ill-health that is attributable to loneliness which, if funded by increased taxes across the board, would result in higher corporation tax.
The report concludes that the issue of loneliness is largely neglected in the workplace and strongly suggests that it is in the interests of employers to use both reactive and preventative approaches to minimise the loneliness of their employees.
The Co-op Group, which has raised more than £6 million for its campaign, in conjunction with British Red Cross, to tackle loneliness across all ages, has several polices that help counter isolation and loneliness for its colleagues.
Rufus Olins, chief membership officer at the Group, said: “It is clear that employers need to be aware of the issue that loneliness can have on employees and the importance of giving them support.
“We already know from research we published last year that ordinary events in life have the potential to disrupt our social connections and can lead to individuals becoming lonely even though they may be surrounded by others.
“There is a role for businesses that the NEF research highlights and that is why we are beginning to develop support for colleagues who are lonely. But we also feel it is something that we should be sharing with other employers through our role on the Jo Cox Commission. By implementing well thought out strategies employers can not only support individual colleagues but also make a positive impact on their bottom line.”
Rachel Reeves MP and Seema Kennedy MP, co-chairs of the Jo Cox Commission, said: “Many people wrongly believe that loneliness only affects older people and that those in work must have social connections so cannot possibly be lonely. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
“Research clearly shows that loneliness affects people in the workplace. The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness is today asking business and employers to think about what they can do to support both their staff and their customers who are affected by loneliness.”