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Redefining community

Tackling loneliness and isolation

Time 295 days ago Comments 0 comments

Due to the impact of Coronavirus (Covid-19), around 3,000 colleagues who would normally be based in offices or sites are working from home, with many more spending an increased amount of time within their own walls. This way of working brings freedom and flexibility, but can conjure feelings of isolation and loneliness, as shown in the results of our recent employee survey.

It’s important to note just how normal it is to feel a disconnect, even for those who are still working alongside other people in a virtual environment.

In psychology, it’s generally accepted that people have five basic needs. Right in the centre of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are ‘safety needs’ and ‘love needs’ – which cover things like an orderly, secure world where a person can reasonably expect that their needs will be met tomorrow as well as today, and affection, interaction and ‘belongingness’.

The Covid-19 pandemic has removed or changed many people’s experience of these needs, as well as making the types of relationships that people need for growth and development much harder to sustain.

The highest level in Maslow’s hierarchy is ‘self-actualisation’ - the desire to be the best we can be - which depends heavily on personal development and growth. In studying the conditions that facilitate personal growth, Carl Rogers (1957) identified a specific quality of relationship that people have with others which plays a key role in them moving forward with their lives.

It’s a relationship in which an individual can be authentic, experience an attitude of acceptance and respect, and in which empathy is present. Many of the norms we associate with building and caring for meaningful relationships like this have been put on pause by Covid-19 – so without being able to make someone a drink, shake their hand, visit their home and give them a hug, how can we still feel connected?

Redefining community

Despite negativity about the societal impacts of Covid-19, we are seeing some positive and unexpected results, including widespread outpourings of charity, togetherness and empathy for complete strangers. Some have even suggested that we are seeing a grassroots redefinition of what community means in the 21st century.

To be an active part of that redefinition, you could look at getting involved in an online community that suits your interests:

  • Donate to a Kickstarter campaign or sign up to someone's Patreon – invest in a product or idea alongside others and share in the achievements as it grows
  • Participate in an online game – games like Animal Crossing are bringing multiple generations together under the genre of ‘social stimulation’
  • Join one of Sodexo’s Diversity and Inclusion networks – speak with colleagues who have shared experiences and connect with new people from the Sodexo family

You could also try your hand at something creative or join a group of people who are all learning a skill for the first time. A sense of community centres around a shared obligation or commitment, both practical and emotional, so signing up for a course alongside others could give you that feeling of accountability to see each other through. Within your local community, you could:

  • Walk the dog of someone who is shielding/ isolating
  • Organise a creative way of bringing your apartment block or street together – perhaps some artwork or bunting where each person makes their part, to be joined together
  • Create community tokens (such as painted and varnished rocks) to leave for others to find when out for a walk

Consider what belonging and community means to you, and whether you can find those feelings in new ways. Remember that can’t give what you don’t have - to be a good connector with others, we need to look after ourselves.

If your feelings of isolation and loneliness are something you want to discuss further, or get help with, our employee assistance programme Talk is available 24/7, completely free of charge to you and those in your household.

Please reach out to a colleague, friend or family member , or to an official support line and remember the Red Cross’ advice - loneliness can affect anybody, but everybody can help.


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