If you’ve recently transitioned to working from home, your excitement and appreciation for a relaxed environment where you can stay in your pajamas all day may have already started to slip away. Now, you dread the thought of getting up and spending all day alone, yet again.
Remote employment comes with its perks, but many people just like you have found the isolation and loneliness an emotional killer. Don’t worry. I’ve found a few helpful tips that brighten my day and help me get past the remote working loneliness.
The Basics of Remote Employment
Let me start by giving you a basic overview of how to transition to working from home. It isn’t going to be long before you realize it is nothing like heading into the office each day. Keep these elements in mind.
Realize you are normal.
Before you put my strategies into practice, let me assure you that the crazy emotional roller coaster you are on is normal. You aren’t the only one who is okay with your cat being your coworker on Monday but by Wednesday finding every purr or hiss annoying. A large majority of remote workers struggle to feel like they are still connected to their coworkers or the company. Many people stare frustrated at their computer screens or their coffee cups desperately wanting to make small talk with a human being. If this is you, take some comfort in knowing that you are normal.
You may not have a choice in working remotely, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the situation work to your advantage. You may not be able to change jobs or convince your boss you need to be in the office, but you can create a remote working environment that caters to your strengths, fills in the social gaps, and allows you to thrive professionally and personally. Whatever else you decide to do, don’t feel guilty for your emotional journey or your ups and downs. The transition is hard, and it takes time to adjust.
Make your situation work for you.
As you start your remote position, find a way to make your schedule and environment work for you. Create a quiet, comfortable spot in your home where you have access to good lighting. If you already struggle with depression over being alone, you definitely don’t want to sit in a dark, dull space. Buy a plant to put on your desk or plug in a tabletop water fountain. Put photos or keepsakes around that bring you joy. If it isn’t too distracting, you can even turn on a favorite playlist or the radio to create some additional sound in the area. Don’t turn on the tv for extra noise, as you may find your productivity gets interrupted.
The Nine Strategies for Combatting Remote Working Loneliness
Since you have your workspace all set up and you are in the groove of your new situation, you can start focusing on how to brighten your day as you work. Some days may be harder than others, but these strategies can be used to make the entire situation more manageable and less lonely.
1. Try to spend one day a week working outside your normal home office setup
While it depends on what your job duties require, simply changing your environment can be a great way to not feel so isolated. Coffee shops and local libraries often have internet access, making it easy for you to still answer your emails or connect with your team members. You may be able to use a library or study room at a local community college or university. Even if you don’t know the people around you, this gives you the opportunity to see new faces and watch people moving through their own daily routines. You may also be able to work from a friend or family member’s home for a day or two a week.
2. Find social activities to take part in after work
Missing out on the camaraderie and connection with coworkers can’t completely be replaced, but spending time after work with your family or friends can help take your mind off your loneliness. Many people wait until the weekend to hang out socially, but as a remote employee, you don’t need to wait that long before meeting up with people. You need to feel like you are a part of a community, and joining a book club, heading out for drinks, or making dinner plans can get you into a world that exists outside the four walls of your home. It is too easy for remote workers to spend more time working than is healthy because it is convenient.
3. Put flexibility into your day
Being at home puts you in control of your schedule. Unless your company has strict login rules and working hours, plan some flexibility into your daily routine or weekly schedule to give you a break from the isolation. Drop by a friend or coworkers house on your lunch break or meet up with your coworker for coffee before you start the day. If you have a dog, take your pup for a walk or to the dog park for an hour to break up the long day. Spend some extra time with your kids by taking them to school or picking them up, rather than letting them ride the bus. These little breaks may not seem like much, but they will go a long way in helping you feel engaged and connected with the world around you.
4. Establish social connections with coworkers
Many remote employees are connected to one another through company networks, but many reserve these tools for just work-oriented conversations. While you may not want to spend all your time on the clock shooting the breeze with your friend in accounting, reach out through your instant messaging or communication channels to check in with your coworkers. You can establish a social group through Slack or a monthly Zoom call where you all catch up on what has been happening or exchange photos and tidbits of interesting information about your lives.
5. Use real-time communication with clients or customers
If you spend your day exchanging emails with your clients or customers, switch things up with a video chat or phone call. Not everyone is a fan of video calls, but just hearing someone speak and having a live conversation can do a lot to brighten up your day. You can also pick up the phone and call your coworker about that detail they missed on the report. Miscommunication is more likely to happen through text or email, which could really make your feelings of loneliness worse.
6. Use exercise and activity to recharge your mind
Sitting alone for hours in your house is both frustrating and boring. You may find that you have less energy and low excitement for anything else going on in your life since your work life seems so dull. By spending some time each day exercising or doing yoga, you can recharge your body and mind. To curb feelings of loneliness, you can join a gym and workout with a friend or personal trainer. You could also join an exercise class or participate in group sessions.
7. Use your lunch hour productively
Many people hate eating alone. There is just something about sitting in silence and staring at your food. Rather than dreading your lunch hour, use it wisely and productively. Though it will take a little planning ahead, invite a friend or family member over for lunch and cook them a meal. There are plenty of recipes that you can complete in less than an hour, and in addition to the feeling of accomplishment you have, you also have someone to share your lunch hour with.
8. Take a moment to breathe
When things start to feel really lonely at work, take some personal time. Head out the door or over to the window to deeply breathe in some fresh air. Let your mind take a mental break and focus on other things. You can look up memes online if you need a laugh, or you can karaoke to your favorite tune. Sometimes you just need to exhale the negativity and replace it with something more relaxing or pleasant.
9. Reach out whenever you need it
We’ve talked about how to stay connected with coworkers or to engage with your community, but what if you need a “pick me up” on a daily basis? It is completely okay. Sometimes you just need to make a phone call or send a text that says you feel lonely and need to chat. Chances are, someone else may be feeling the same way too. Don’t try to be brave and handle your challenges on your own. Be the force that brightens someone else’s day by reaching out when you are feeling blue. You don’t have to follow a socialization schedule. Reach out and ask for help or a listening ear whenever you need it.
Remote employment can be challenging, but you don’t need to go at it alone. There are millions of Americans just like you trying to move past their loneliness and stay productive. Give some of these tips a try to brighten up your workday.