Loneliness shouldn’t be brushed off as a minor concern in the modern workplace. From joining an online community to lunchtime walks, these pieces of advice are aimed at preventing mental and physical health issues brought on by remote working
This year, remote working has become the norm. While some have relished lounging in their back gardens with minimal distractions, parents have swatted children away from webcams and 20% of remote workers say they struggle with loneliness, according to a 2020 report from Buffer and AngelList.
As an introvert, I thought I would relish being home alone when I went freelance in 2018. After more than 10 years of working in teams, I was overjoyed to set up a business in my front room. I felt more balanced, relaxed and in control of my moods. But, after a year or so, I started to realise that I wasn’t always flourishing in my solitude.
Being socially disconnected can have a serious impact on your mental and physical health, increase your risk of high blood pressure and inflammation, increase stress, and even make you more aggressive. This is why loneliness shouldn’t be brushed off as a minor concern in the modern workplace. Here are my tips on how to avoid loneliness when working from home.
1. Be proactive
Don’t wait until you feel loneliness descend before taking action. Schedule in social time with friends and family just as ruthlessly as you plan in work meetings and deadlines. Having these interactions as part of your self-care plan is essential, so make sure they are non-negotiable. Whenever you do catch up with friends, take time to acknowledge the positive impact it has on your mood in that very moment and use that as a reminder to prioritise it in the future.
2. Check in with your friends
I have a close-knit group of friends who, like me, are all freelancers. I know that they are all busy and stressed (also like me) so I make a conscious effort to check in on them every day. I’m not one for Zoom calls unless they’re completely necessary, so I prefer to send voice notes on WhatsApp to say hello. I find that ending a little audio gift to a mate saying ‘good morning’ and offering a pep talk is a nice way to start the day and feel connected to others.
3. Maximise your lunch hour
There may not be much scope for socialising when you’re sitting at your desk, but you can banish the blues at lunch time. Instead of migrating to the sofa for a Netflix session, go for a walk with a friend. Walking and talking at the same time is proven to be an incredible mental health tool because the forward-facing momentum encourages honest conversation. Not to mention all that glorious vitamin D which can play a pivotal role in helping depression.
4. Join an online community
Working in an office means that you’re surrounded by people who understand your industry. On the flipside, remote working can leave you feeling isolated and without anyone to bounce ideas off. Online communities can plug this gap and provide you with a space to talk about work, vent and network with like-minded individuals. You can join LinkedIn groups (take a look at these suggestions aimed at entrepreneurs, for example) or search for industry groups on Facebook.
Fiona Thomas is the author of Out of Office: Ditch the 9-5 And Be Your Own Boss (Trigger Publishing 2020).