In any other year, seeing friends, family, coworkers, and the same friendly faces on your commute to the office was commonplace. But this is 2020, which means seeing anyone other than those you live with or your next door neighbour over the fence is a rarity.
The ongoing restrictions on travel and household mixing have put a standstill on spending time with people in your social circle, which has led to an increase in feelings of loneliness and isolation. One study found that over a quarter of UK adults experienced loneliness as a result of the limited social contact caused by lockdown restrictions. Loneliness in itself is a negative experience, and it can also lead to mental health issues such as increased stress, low self-esteem, and depression.
The impact of loneliness on workplace wellbeing is well-documented too, and with Christmas just around the corner – which can trigger or intensify feelings of loneliness – it’s important to focus on supporting your staff throughout these periods of isolation. One way to help combat loneliness at work is to set up a buddy program.
What’s a buddy program?
A buddy program generally forms part of the employee onboarding process, where a new starter is paired up with an existing team member who shows them the ropes. The “buddy” gives the new employee a friendly face to interact with as soon as they start, helping them feel welcome and get to grips with the organisation’s culture. They’re also a point of contact for staff to ask questions, clarify company processes, and provide encouragement.
You can adopt the principles of buddy programs and use these to support staff through periods of loneliness. By offering staff the opportunity to pair-up with a supportive coworker, you’re creating opportunities for human connection and social contact, which are vital for combating loneliness.
How to use your intranet to set up a buddy program
First, share an article on your intranet news channels to explain the benefits of your buddy program and how it works. Include practical information such as how coworkers will be paired up (will it be random or can people choose?), when your buddy program will take place (will it be ongoing or for a limited time period?), and how people can communicate with each other (over video conference, internal messaging, or email?).
Next, create an intranet poll to gauge interest in your buddy program. A simple “Would you like to take part?” one question poll will suffice, and you’ll be able to see straight away which team members want to be involved thanks to the in-built reporting features.
Once your buddy program has had some time to bed into your organisation, set up an intranet survey to get feedback from those who took part. This is an important part of the process, as it will allow you to see if your buddy program was successful, or if you need to make any improvements. Your ultimate goal is to help your staff feel less lonely and more connected, so it’s vital that you understand if you achieved this.