Working from home (WFH) has its advantages: improved flexibility, no commutes, saves money on petrol or public transportation, and a lot more meetings that could have been emailed are finally have become the emails we've always wished them to be. On the other hand, working remotely can feel too isolated, like being stuck on a secluded island. It's no wonder, then, that loneliness was cited as a significant reason remote workers wished to go back to the company office in a series of studies on their well-being.
Google search traffic for “symptoms of anxiety” reached an all-time high about a couple of weeks after much of America's employees migrated to remote setups. That dynamic is magnified for those with pre-existing mental health disorders or who do not have the childcare, space, technology, healthcare, or employer assistance they require to work from home effectively.
Employees are isolated from family and friends by shelter-in-place protocols, and economic and social instability exacerbates dread and uncertainties. Meanwhile, remote work has been found to increase performance and employee satisfaction.
What does working from home mean for mental health?
No matter where we work, our jobs have an impact on our mental health. Habits are a vital element of sustaining a healthy brain. Employers do many that work for us in traditional offices, and everybody is on their own at home. And when it comes to creating habits from the start, most of us have pretty poor backgrounds. Remote work not only disrupts our habits but also hurts our health. It interferes with our coping strategies or the ideas and behaviors we use to cope with stress. It also wreaks havoc on our relationships. Many of us spend the majority of our time at work with coworkers. We may not require them to complete tasks, yet their presence frequently improves the quality of our job.
Working from home can also have definite additional advantages. The most apparent difference according is that employees are not under pressure to appear to be working. This allows employees to take relaxing breaks or work during their most productive hours. The pang of loneliness when working remotely is becoming increasingly tangible as a result of isolation. Loneliness can impair performance at work and, worse, has been related to premature death.
Dealing with this new breed of loneliness requires some proactive strategy when there was previously little to none. Here are some strategies for combating the sense of loneliness resulting from sitting at home alone all day staring at a computer monitor.
Leave the house
Step outside for a few moments. If possible, split your day by enjoying the mornings in a local cafe and the afternoons in your workplace. If you don't want to leave your house, work for a few hours at the kitchen counter, then in the bedroom, before returning to your desk. Studies demonstrate that this can improve your creativity, other than removing the feeling of being locked in a lonely pattern. Staying at home might be detrimental to your emotional health because it makes chance social interactions and new relationships hard. Look for safe, socially distant pursuits to combat WFH solitude now that public health recommendations are in effect.
Work with a friend
If you know anyone else who suffers from this type of home office isolation, bring them over to work at home with you. You can be friendly and get rid of that empty sensation of loneliness while also being efficient. If you don't have any home office buddies, think about joining an online group for people who work from home and connecting to make a new home office acquaintance. Consider building your own WFH squad of local friends going through this kind of experience if you have additional space at home. Though you'll be doing separate things, having an opportunity to exchange ideas off one other, gripe about annoying customers, or celebrate small triumphs all through the day might imitate the type of social relationships you're used to having with coworkers.
Connect beyond social media
When it comes to social media, keep it to a minimum. While browsing through your Facebook or Instagram may help you keep up with what your friends are doing—and give you the illusion of interacting with others—it is a poor replacement that often adds to feelings of loneliness, worry, and melancholy.
Socialize over a meal
Schedule it, whether if it's only for a half-hour. If possible, take your lunch break outside of the house. Meet a friend in a local cafe and catch up on your days. If you want to go the extra mile, meet with a work colleague and discuss work-related topics to maximize personal and professional networks. Every workday, set aside a mealtime to catch up with friends, family members, or favorite coworkers. According to research, the number of encounters we have directly impacted our sense of belonging and may even influence our enjoyment. If your family and friends are transitioning to WFH living, they are in the same situation as you and are looking for human engagement. And meals were the initial social platform. This mealtime is the perfect time to mingle.
Adopt a pet
Like that of many other pets, the presence of dogs can reduce feelings of stress, isolation, tension, and depression and inspire more interactions among colleagues and more activity in the pet owner's life. When you're not up for taking good care of a more hands-on pet, don't assume you have to acquire a highly demanding pet like a dog; you may always choose for a more low-maintenance pet like a fish or cat.
Managers: Check on your WFH employees
Managers and team leaders must do routine checks with workers under their supervision for various reasons, not only being that loneliness can severely impact employee performance. It's natural for a new remote worker to be taken aback by the drastic upheaval in work life and feel suddenly disconnected from its objective.
At the end of each day, an essential thing to remember is that establishing a routine, enhancing communication with coworkers, and even opening up can help you combat stress, minimize feelings of isolation, and even accomplish more significant results.