Starting at a new company can be a lonely time, but starting for your very first employer can be even lonelier.
Many fresh grads are not used to the norms of office behaviour, and while in a bigger company they might have a group of fellow grads to share their growing pains, in the mid-sized firms this is far from always the case. Their boss is there for them and their colleagues are as supportive as possible, but everyone has their own job to do, so it is all too easy for grads to feel moments of genuine loneliness.
Mental health is a huge issue for our society, and there are pivotal moments in life when people need particularly strong support. Leaving university and starting work is a huge upheaval, and employers need to recognise that in their first six months it is crucial to make a particular effort to make them feel at home.
The difficult thing is that people have a tendency to put on a brave face, so it is difficult to tell if a grad is experiencing loneliness. It is not, however, impossible.
The tell-tale signs start to appear after a while, and if they seem to intensify over time, then something must be done. When someone starts to eat lunch on their own, you have to question how close their feel to their colleagues. If someone starts to talk less in meetings you might question whether they feel that their voice is valued. If someone works with their head down while the banter is flying about the office, then you definitely have a problem.
Grads need to feel involved with the day-to-day running of the business, but due to their inexperience this is not always immediately the case. This is when isolation and loneliness can take root. Keeping them busy and allowing them to work alongside more experienced employees is a great way of getting them communicating with the wider team.
This is not something that can be discussed directly with a grad. Questioning their lack of involvement will make them even more insecure. It is better to tackle their environment and their activity – ensuring that they are tasked with interacting with as many others as possible. Much of the admin work given to grads is monotonous work that is accomplished alone, but without the more team oriented activities, they will soon become detached.
When we get feedback from our graduate placements, the ones who are flourishing are the ones who are involved across a broad spectrum of tasks. Their work brings them into contact with a wide range of people and they could not possibly feel lonely if they tried. It can be taxing to work closely with a recent grad, but if you spread the load across a broader range of people, the burden will not be so great.
If you encourage your grads to foster relationships with those around them, they will flourish. If they are starved of communication with their colleagues, they will wither