Do you ever experience loneliness while working from home? If you do, then rest assured that you are not alone. Working remotely decreases the opportunity for social interaction with our colleagues. We can’t hear the friendly laugh of the person we usually sit next to, and you can’t glance over at someone else’s desk to check in on how they are doing. And it’s just not the same making a cup of tea in an empty kitchen when you used to enjoy the morning chatter with people from other teams in the building as you passed each other the milk.
Remote working has some great benefits, including reduced commute times and more flexibility in the working day, but every rose has its thorns. Suppose you have been working from home with children around your feet for the last six months. In that case, you may find that you actually miss the noise and interruptions from the family as they now return to school or childcare. If you’re facing another week of work from your bedroom, then it can be hard to spend another workday mostly alone.
Another benefit of remote working is that productivity increases while working from home if people are better able to focus on tasks and performance. But this may make work less meaningful as we miss the opportunity to balance this with helping others, getting involved in new initiatives and spending time with people face-to-face. Although the majority of us would like to continue to work from home after the pandemic, only 12% would like to do so full-time. One of the top reasons for this is not being able to collaborate and communicate with colleagues. Not only does this make it more difficult to get tasks completed, but it can make some people feel more isolated and less connected.
As work becomes less meaningful, it becomes more challenging to focus on it and procrastination sets in. There is a risk that people not only feel more lonely but also demotivated and disengaged from work. All of this can harm our mental health if we don’t take steps to address it. We are not machines, we crave meaningful social interaction, and most of us look forward to returning to the office for a few days a week when we can. Until then, there are things we can do to reduce loneliness while working from home.
By shifting the focus away from ourselves and to people that we can help and support, we can rediscover meaning in our workday. Share your skills and areas of expertise with others so people know what you can help them with.
Grab a virtual coffee
Meet your work friends over Zoom at 10.00 am each morning to share a cuppa and talk about everything except work.
Have a walking meeting
If you live near to someone you work closely with try meeting them for a walk instead of virtually every week or two.
Add 10 minutes to your team meeting
For some people, the team meeting may be their only interaction with colleagues during the workday. Make time to talk about what’s happening in people’s lives outside of work.
Say hello to someone you haven’t seen in a while
Everyone can feel lonely sometimes, from the student on work-placement to the CEO. Make a list of as many people as you can think of that you would usually chat to in the office and say hello to one of them every day. It could be a chat message, an email or a call; it doesn’t matter as long as you are making the connection.
If you are managing a remote team, the final suggestion would be to talk about loneliness while working from home with your team. Being open and honest about the challenges with remote working is the only way we can hope to manage them through this period of extended time away from the office.