How to Combat Loneliness as a Remote Worker
There are so many benefits to working remotely. Ditching the commute is great for your time, your wallet and the environment. Not only that, but working on a flexible schedule allows you to have an improved work life balance. Maybe you love the fact that you can get your kids ready for school every morning, or maybe you like the idea of being able to work in more casual clothes.
Whatever your favorite part of working remotely might be, there is a drawback that is said to be the most pervasive issue for people working from home: loneliness.
According to work from home statistics, over 20% of remote workers cite loneliness as their number one concern. As someone who works from home, it is easy to see how a day can go by without having had a face-to-face with anyone. String a few days together like that and one can begin to feel isolated.
What’s so bad about being by yourself all day?
According to a Cigna study, the phenomenon of being lonely is growing in the U.S. Generation Z is the most likely to feel isolated, demonstrating the trend moving upward over time. As much as 47% of the U.S. population reports not participating in regular daily interactions with others, something surely exacerbated by the rise in remote working positions.
This kind of isolation can have an effect on your physical well-being, sleep schedule and subsequent productivity. It is said to lead to poor eating choices and low exercise rates. According to a study done at Harvard in 2012, there can be as much as a 24% increase in the risk of dying from heart disease. A University of Chicago Psychologist, John Cacioppo, who tracks the effects of loneliness points to how feelings of isolation destroy your sleep habits, leading to depression.
How to combat loneliness
The first step to fighting feelings of isolation are identifying them. You can’t build any coping mechanisms without understanding what you are dealing with and when. By recognizing when you are feeling lonely, it is possible to address those feelings constructively. Only once you are aware of the possibility that you might experience this kind of emotional reaction to working from home alone will you be in a position to accept it and move forward with strategies to help alleviate those feelings.
Many people who experience loneliness also feel a guilt associated with the phenomenon, they feel they should be ‘strong’ enough or ‘stable’ enough to work in isolation and that loneliness represents a kind of weakness. Nothing could be further from the truth. Part of this work is to give yourself permission to realize that active interaction with other people is just part of human nature, and depriving yourself of that can cause emotional harm.
Once you have allowed yourself the space to realize that loneliness is something you are allowed to experience, you can move on to strategies to alleviate that feeling.
Find a new vantage point
Part of the enormous freedoms associated with working from home is that you can do your work from anywhere with a strong enough wifi signal. There are a number of modern conveniences that make it possible for you to never leave your home. Actively working against these is a good way to stave off loneliness.
- Work from somewhere where you are among people like a coffee shop or library.
- Consider doing your errands in person, rather than rely on online deliveries.
- Join a gym (or take an exercise class) rather than exercising at home.
Fill your social calendar
It’s easy to lose yourself in work and forget to connect with others when you are working from home. One way to make sure that you aren’t affected by loneliness is to actively create regular meetups with friends and family.
- Consider eating out with a friend on a regular basis — you might set up weekly lunches or dinners so that you aren’t inside for every meal.
- Put together a themed night — friday movie nights, for example, that gets your friends together regularly.
- Participate in a hobby that gets you out of the house, like a sport or game, or join a book club or go see theater.
- Make regular visits to your family a priority if you can. Offering up babysitting services or starting the tradition of Sunday night dinners at your parent’s house may make you feel more connected on a regular basis.
Connect with other remote workers
Another important thing to remember when working on overcoming any feelings of isolation is that you are most definitely not alone. There are growing throngs of remote workers who are in precisely the same emotional space that you are. Some of the ones you might connect with most easily might already be on your team.
- Squad up: Create opportunities for your team to come together both for work purposes, in a retreat atmosphere for example, or after work for things like baseball games or happy hours. Finding something outside of work to connect on will also make your team more cohesive and collaborative.
- Look for like minded peers: Connect to forums and meetups between remote workers even if they don’t work with you. Again, there are many people in this same boat, looking for connection, and you will find that they experience many of the same issues that you do. You may find remote working strategies that you had not previously considered through this kind of networking.
- Use a co-working space: Offices created for remote workers to cowork have all of the benefits of office life (a dedicated space, room for meetings if necessary, office supplies, and human interaction). Consider taking advantage of one of these places on a regular basis, even if it’s only a couple of times a week, when you have to get into something that is rigorous and just need a change of scenery.
With these strategies you can preemptively fend off feelings of isolation that could ultimately lead to burnout. Even if you haven’t been exactly a social butterfly in the past, by doing what you can to actively schedule time outside of your home and your work, you will have the tools you need to avoid the kinds of loneliness that can take over your emotional and professional life if you let it.
Sarah is a Content Marketing Manager at Siege Media and Your Best Digs who works remotely while traveling. She’s passionate about developing high-quality content for diverse industries ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies. When she’s not creating content, she’s likely hiking a new trail or mapping out the next destination.