Written by Sheila Proteau, Founder of GoGoRemote.com, March 2020
If you are fortunate enough to still be working during this pandemic, then there’s a good chance that you are working from home.
The current pandemic has catapulted the remote work movement to the front of the stage in ways no one could ever have anticipated. Millions of people have been suddenly asked to work remotely, most with little or no preparation, guidance, or training.
Over the last two weeks, I’ve spoken to dozens of people who are now working remotely as a result of the pandemic. And while most of them are experiencing the many benefits of working remotely, many have also expressed that working remotely has a downside: loneliness and isolation.
Those of us who have worked remotely for some time are well aware that loneliness and isolation can be a challenge. In fact, isolation and loneliness are reported to be the number one challenge for remote workers.
But to those of you who are newly minted remote workers, it’s important to note that the level of isolation and loneliness you are experiencing is not the norm — the situation has been greatly exacerbated by the pandemic and the requirements for self-isolation and social distancing.
About a year ago, I published an article entitled How to Combat Isolation and Loneliness When Working Remotely to offer tips to deal with the isolation and loneliness. I talked about some of the strategies that I’ve used like going to work at a coffee shop or co-working space, meeting up with a friend for lunch, or going to the gym.
While many of the options I listed are still viable, many are no longer available due to self-isolation and social distancing requirements.
So here is a revised list of ways to combat isolation and loneliness:
- Have a virtual meet-up: Arrange a virtual lunch, coffee, or after-work drink by using one of the many video communications tools like Zoom, Google Hangouts, or even FaceTime or WhatsApp. Take a break and connect with one of your family members over video — I find few things as comforting as seeing my daughter’s face during a video call.
- Communicate with your colleagues: Make a point of communicating with your colleagues on a regular basis using one of the many communication tools available. In addition to weekly Zoom calls, we use Slack to keep in touch daily.
- Exercise. Of all the things I miss right now, going to the gym is near the top of the list. It’s my stress release, my coping mechanism. So I’ve had to adapt by working out at home. My daughter and I do yoga almost every day. We’ve done CrossFit and kickboxing. Many gyms are offering free online workouts to members. While it doesn’t offer the same opportunity to get out of the house and be around people, it does offer several positive effects that can help with your mental health, including the release of endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals produced naturally by the nervous system to cope with pain or stress and are often called “feel-good” chemicals because they can act as a pain reliever and happiness booster.
- Get outside. Go for a walk or a run or a bike ride. Do some yard work. Just remember to observe social distancing. Getting some fresh air helps, and if you go for a vigorous walk or run, the endorphins will do wonders to lift your mood.
- Go for a drive. Even just getting in your car and going for a 10-15 minute drive can break the feeling of being stuck in your house.
- Hold weekly ‘all hands’ meetings with your team. Use half the time to talk about work — new projects, new clients, new team members — but use the other half to have everyone share something — it doesn’t even have to be work-related. It could be what they did this weekend, or it could be sharing a new recipe or even holiday photos — anything goes.
- Do random one-on-one calls. Every week Mobile Jazz pairs people randomly and schedules a short call and those people just talk about anything not work-related. Great way to connect with and get to know your colleagues on a more personal level.
- Encourage people to exercise every day. Even if it’s just going for a walk. Physical exercise is important for anyone’s health and well-being, and not just physical health but mental health as well.
- Offer weekly lessons and roundtables: Each week, offer lessons and roundtables where one person from the team or sometimes an outside person will present courses. It could be something around development like design practices or marketing but it also could be things not work-related, like photography or even beer tasting!
Loneliness isn’t the sole domain of the remote worker — numerous studies have reported that loneliness is becoming an epidemic — but working from home certainly has the potential to contribute to feelings of loneliness. As remote workers, we need to be mindful and actively take steps to ensure we nurture and maintain our social connections.
Sheila Proteau is a freelance writer, entrepreneur, and founder of GoGoRemote.com.
A passionate advocate for remote and flexible work arrangements, she launched GoGoRemote.com to increase awareness of the benefits for both employees and employers of remote and flexible work arrangements.
Connect with her on LinkedIn.