The issue of loneliness and isolation as remote workers has become the focus. Loneliness has become a major challenge in a time filled with hundreds of digital tools for team collaboration and communication. When employees feel connected and engaged, they are productive and happy. But if they begin to feel isolated, that can change quickly.
According to a survey by Work Anywhere, 55% of 1000 remote workers experienced loneliness. 15% of them almost felt lonely all day long. BBC also reported that 81% of people under 35 fear loneliness due to working from home. Loneliness and isolation increased levels of stress and anxiety, according to Deloitte.
Despite the increased productivity or cost savings, remote work brings real concern. The good news is that workers can prevent loneliness and isolation. In fact, 97% of workers intend to work remotely for the rest of their lives.
Loneliness is subjective while Isolation is objective
First, it is necessary to understand that loneliness and isolation are different. Loneliness is feeling disconnected from others, while isolation is a lack of access to something. Psychology Today mentions that loneliness is subjective, and isolation is objective.
In-office employees can also feel loneliness and isolation. When employees say they are lonely, they miss connecting with co-workers. Employees who feel isolated mean they lack access to get their work done. It wasn't an emotional issue but a technical one.
Although different, these two things contribute to each other. If left unaddressed, they can negatively impact one's psychological, mental, and physical health. Also, team collaboration will be disorganised.
Signs of Loneliness and Isolation
Managers or employees can identify signs of loneliness and isolation. Here are six signs that someone may be feeling these things:
1. Missing deadlines and being sloppy
If a team member who is usually reliable starts missing deadlines and being sloppy, this could be a sign of loneliness and isolation. It is the most obvious sign. Investigating and communicating with the employee is important to develop a solution to the problem.
2. Calling in sick or changing schedules
Remote workers have flexibility, but they still have to be available during working hours. Employees must be available for collaboration or discussion with the team. But If someone starts changing their work hours or taking sick leave without reason, it could be a sign of isolation.
3. Not providing feedback
Good remote workers actively participate in the discussion and share their opinion. Even if they disagreed, they always chimed in on the discussion through small talk. If someone suddenly stops providing feedback, they may feel disconnected.
4. No interaction with colleagues
Team collaboration and communication are the two keys to success, especially in remote work. There may be an issue if employees aren't using online tools to connect with colleagues. Ensure that employees know how to use these tools effectively.
5. Missing meetings
Technical issues can cause missed meetings, but it could be a sign of isolation if it happens too often. Identify the main reason they missed the meeting, then communicate.
6. Lack of interest in career development
Most employees want opportunities for career development. The company offers career development to develop new skills. Employees will generally take advantage of this as a growth opportunity. But if the employee isn't interested in the opportunity, it may be a sign of disconnecting.
8 Ways to Combat Loneliness and Isolation as Remote Workers
The workplace usually creates a social environment that remote workers may miss out on. So, how can they manage feelings of loneliness and isolation without being in an office?
1. Work outside of the home at least once a week.
Combat feelings of isolation by engaging with the outside world. Remote employees can work in a co-working space, library, or coffee shop. Choose a day in the week to enjoy the noise of people talking or the coffee aroma in the shop. Remote workers can also invite their remote-working friends to work together. Even if they don't interact much, it can help recreate the office atmosphere they may be missing.
2. Make plans after work.
It can be tough to separate work and personal time when working from home. One solution is to plan something to do after work. Write your schedule on a to-do list or a reminder app. You can schedule a dinner with family or friends. It gets you out of the house and off the computer. If you're feeling lonelier than usual, plan a trip with friends to feel more connected.
3. Join a regular community at work.
Does your management tool have the facility to create multiple channels and groups? Use it! Use this feature to create groups with co-workers who share interests, such as working out. Start discussing those interests or plan an exercise session together. It's the best way to stay connected with teammates.
4. Make use of your flexible schedule in the afternoon.
One thing that office workers don't have is a flexible schedule in the afternoon and morning. Take advantage of time flexibility by socialising with your neighbours. You can enjoy a long sleep since you don't have to commute. Additionally, use your extra time to cook your lunch and enjoy it while watching Youtube. These are things you can't do when working in the office.
5. Video call with teams
Make the most out of video conferencing tools to communicate with your team. Share points of view, ideas, or concepts with colleagues through the tool. Sometimes, remote workers feel like emails can discuss everything. However, they still need to socialise and have face-to-face conversations. Video communication is also more effective for remote workers.
6. Listen to music
Music is a quick way to overcome loneliness and isolation while working from home. It has a positive effect on creativity and happiness. Being alone with your thoughts in silence can intensify loneliness. Create a Spotify or YouTube music playlist to brighten your day, or check out our recommended playlists.
7. Dress up your workspace
If you're feeling lonely, try to spruce up your workspace. Create a quiet and distraction-free zone if you prefer a calm environment. If you're bored with your home surroundings, try working in a cafe with private study rooms. And if you enjoy being around people, consider working in a communal space where you can connect with others.
8. Make self-care a priority
Remember, loneliness is an emotional state, not a structural one. If you've tried the previous suggestions and they didn't work, it might be time to take care of yourself. Make self-care a priority by scheduling activities like going to the gym or spa to relax your mind.
Loneliness and feeling isolated are all part of remote work. It comes with all the advantages and disadvantages. Through the right way, you can identify and overcome these feelings. Don't suffer in silence. Speak up and share emotions with colleagues or family. Sharing thoughts can lighten the load.