Wednesday 12 August 2020

Tips for avoiding loneliness when you’re working from home

If you’re new to the concept of working from home, the idea can be initially exciting. Imagine, no colleagues to distract you and being able to turn up to your new workplace (home) in your PJs. Not to mention, only needing to do a tea/coffee run for yourself. However, although there are some obvious perks to working from home, there’s one rather drastic downside – feeling lonely. Owing to health and safety measures brought about by the current COVID-19 pandemic, many more employees are now working from home.

Working alone can inevitably lead to feelings of loneliness, but there are measures you can take to minimise these feelings. Here, we take a look at what can cause loneliness while working from home, and what steps you can take to alleviate these feelings.

The importance of social interaction

We often forget that the workplace can also provide social interaction, even if it’s just to gossip about what you’ve been up to over the weekend. Even those colleagues you don’t consider to be friends can provide a break from the monotony of the working day. The physical detachment associated with working from home can become a concern in the long term as you become isolated from physical and social contact. Although it may not be noticeable at first, this detachment can lead to poor mental health for those that aren’t used to being so alone on a daily basis.

An article written by Dr Vivek H Murthy that was published in the Harvard Business Review suggested that loneliness and social isolation have a significant impact on our health:

“Loneliness and weak social connections are associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity.”

Although shocking, this information is important to acknowledge to help people understand the importance of taking action against loneliness. Research suggests there are three main areas of loneliness intervention:

  • Identifying the individual experience – are they lonely or isolated?
  • Self-awareness and self-involvement in organising activities to prevent loneliness
  • The importance of group interventions alongside potentially further insight into individual activities.

How can we prevent loneliness when working from home?

Get organised

One of the most significant changes you can make to ensure you don’t find working from home lonely is to organise your time. This means assigning office hours to your homeworking and making plans to socialise once your working day is over.

Flexible workspaces

One of the simplest ways to feel less isolated now that lockdown restrictions are easing is to choose a social workspace. This could be a library, café, at the home of a colleague or a designated work-hub where you can hire a desk for the day. Just being in a peopled environment can help you feel more connected to the outside world and you will also have the opportunity to interact with others.

Set up a workplace chat room

When you work from home while others are working from the office, it can be easy to feel out of the loop. One way to stop this happening is by having a chat room that colleagues check into each morning. This is better than email as it is less formal and can be used for lunchtime video calls and to send fun messages to each other at less busy times of day. Suggest a chat room to your manager and explain how feeling connected to your colleagues can really help avoid loneliness when working from home. Make plans to meet up with colleagues at the end of the week to socialise and connect, at a distance, of course.

Break up the working day

Just as you would take breaks during the working day, do so while working at home. Arrange to meet a friend for lunch, or, if this isn’t possible, arrange a facetime session or even just a regular phone call. Be proactive with your break times and make sure you have the option to connect with someone, be it virtually or in person.

Get a pet

When you have a cat or a dog, there is limited opportunity to feel lonely. A pet can provide the physical connection you need and stroking a cat or a dog can actually help with other negative feelings such as stress and anxiety. If you don’t have a pet of your own, consider borrowing a friend’s and enjoy the company as you work from home. Having a dog is also a great excuse to get away from your desk and take a walk which can help you connect with others, especially if you arrange meet-ups with fellow dog walkers.

The NHS has some great advice about how to cope with loneliness and tips on how to get help if you become overwhelmed by it.