Day in, day out, you wake up, sit at your desk, and do your work. You enjoy working from home, but you start feeling fazed. You cannot put your finger on it. Could it be loneliness?
As the days turn to weeks or even months, it starts dawning on you. You are lonely! It is not an easy admission to make.
You do not have anyone to talk to or anyone to keep you company. You wish someone would reach out and ask you how you are doing. Or that long lost friend would call you and ask you to grab a coffee with them, but there is no one. It is a terrifying feeling. Where do you start?
When you finally get the courage to reach out to a friend, you second guess yourself and ask, “Won’t they think I’m needy?” or say “They are busy, I don’t want to bother them.”
So, you put it off. In the end, you continue feeling lonely and isolated and do not know how to save yourself.
It does not have to be this way. You can change your situation around and have meaningful human connections while living alone and working from home. This article is going to show you how. Let’s get started.
Research on loneliness
There have been countless research on loneliness in the general population. The studies have mainly focused on the general population but few on remote workers.
However, in recent years there have been studies on remote work and loneliness.
One of them, The 2020 State of Remote Work, published by Buffer and Angel List reports loneliness as the biggest struggle for remote workers. 20% of those interviewed said they felt lonely, despite enjoying the freedom of remote work.
This statistic has been consistent with previous years’ surveys, where loneliness continues to be the biggest challenge for remote workers.
It goes to show the problem is not going away any time soon. How then can remote workers deal with feelings of loneliness and isolation and continue to thrive working from home?
1) Create your community
Studies show having a community is not a luxury but a necessity for human survival. If you are to overcome loneliness and isolation, you have to build your community. Yes! You have to start reaching out to people. It may be daunting if you have social anxiety, or do not know where to start, but you have to.
So, how do you get started in creating your community? For starters, start slow, and then build up as you go along. Do not be tempted to dive in, you will be overwhelmed fast and give up altogether.
A good place to start is joining virtual communities. You can join Facebook Groups and Slack communities for remote workers who bring together remote workers.
These groups are diverse, and you can join them based on your preference. There are groups based on location, type of work, gender, or just general remote groups. In these groups, you will find like minds to share experiences.
If you wish to grow in IRL relationships, join a local remote worker group. Most of them usually have meet-ups, and you can seize these opportunities to get to know other remote workers and create your community.
2) Work at least once a week outside your home
A change of scenery has been shown to affect our minds and emotional state.
To beat the feeling of loneliness and isolation, see how you can work outside your home at least once a week. It can be in the library, co-working space, or coffee shop and get to surround yourself with people.
Even if you will not be talking to them, just being in an environment surrounded by people will give you a sense of community.
If you have a friend who works from home as well, you can invite them to join you. You end up killing two birds with one stone; you get company and get to work outside your home.
3) Take advantage of the flexibility of working from home
It may feel like working from home is making you lonely, but you can turn it into your advantage. Since you have a flexible schedule, go out of your way to include extra socializing activities. For example, you can make arrangements to be having breakfast with a friend on particular days. Or offer to take a neighbor’s dog for a walk.
This way, you get the time to have human contact and meet your needs for socializing. Use the flexibility of working from home, to cater to your well being.
4) Make plans
More often than not, people wait for others to invite them over. It is passive. No effort is needed, and you do not have to face rejection, unlike if you were the one making the invitations.
If you are to curb the feeling of loneliness and isolation, you will have to be proactive and be the one to make plans. You will feel like a fish out of water, but you have to.
These plans do not have to be grand. You can start by inviting a friend to have a drink with you in the evening. See how you like it, and then grow steadily in making bigger plans, like weekend outings.
Be proactive, but do not overwhelm yourself. Start small, and build on your small wins.
5) Use video conferencing tools and phone calls to communicate with your team.
When communicating the progress of your work, presenting your point of view, or whatever communication you are doing with your team, hop on a phone call or video conference call.
If you are feeling lonely and isolated, this type of communication will get you in touch with people and give you that human connection.
Finally, the written text can be isolating if used too frequently when working in teams. Therefore, limit the constant use of things like email, and messaging apps, as the primary mode of communication.
Only use them on a need basis to prevent yourself from feeling isolated.
As a society, we are becoming lonelier, and it is a national epidemic. Compound it with people working from home, it is bound to be ugly, but it does not have to be the case.
If you are living alone and working from home, be proactive, and prioritize social interactions. And in case, you feel overwhelmed, reach out for help, and talk to a therapist.
By Hilda Munjuri
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I loved reading your blog. It made me feel I’m not alone.