How To Deal With Loneliness When You Work From Home, According To Experts
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In a world in which computers and email have made life so much easier, it makes sense that companies would consider skipping the overhead of having an office space when their employees can work from home or a coffee shop or anyplace else in the world. Also, let's be honest, aren't we more productive when we don't have to put on pants?
According to a 2017 Gallup Poll, more employees are working remotely and, in many cases, working remotely for longer periods of time. The survey of 15,000 adults found that 43 percent worked remotely at least some of the time, while 31 percent work remotely as much as 80 to 100 percent of the time.
But working remotely isn't always all fun. As someone who's worked remotely since 2011, I'm the first to admit that it can be sort of lonesome. Granted I have my assistant whom I talk to, but since he's a 12-year-old Jack Russell, our conversations are somewhat one sided. He has also, not even once, gone to get me coffee and I've asked hundreds of times. And, as someone who works from home, I've actually gone as many as three or four days without leaving my apartment, because I get sort of stuck and when you haven't worn pants in days, why would one torture themselves by putting any on? When this happens, the loneliness can become magnified, because now I'm actively deciding to not be around people at all.
However, you can beat the loneliness of working remotely. It just means changing a few things and, I'm so sorry to say this, occasionally putting on pants.
Sure, you can easily talk about work via email, hence the reason you're working remotely in the first place, but when you schedule Skype meetings, you actually get to interact with someone and see their face.
"Do more of your meetings via video — let your co-workers see your face," Erica McCurdy, MCC, CEO of TugWaa, Inc and McCurdy Life Coach, Inc tells Bustle. "With Skype, Zoom, and the myriad of other video options, why not be visible? Invite the other party into your space more often. In this way, you are less isolated and you may even find that you have improved the quality of your conversations."
Even if you don't consider yourself much of a joiner, or someone who wants to be part of a club, if you work remotely, it might be time to become one of those people so you can avoid being lonely.
"Join a gym or social club that has regular classes or meetings so you're held accountable to attend," Gestalt Life Coach and psychotherapist, Nina Rubin, tells Bustle, "Then you have interactions with humans."
When you network, not only do you expand your professional circle, but you get to meet people who also work from home and that can help you feel less alone.
"Selecting the right group makes all the difference!" says McCurdy. "While many groups focus on business building and referral passing, a new trend for women — which I adore — is to incorporate community, personal development, and authentic relationships into the meeting format."
Because so many people work remotely these days, there's a good chance you probably know at least one person who also works from home. Since that's probably (hopefully) the case, Rubin suggests setting up work dates with these people. Just sitting next to someone while you work can make a really big difference.
Both Rubin and McCurdy suggest getting out there and moving your body. "Walk outside and get some sunshine before starting your day," says Rubin.
"Get out of the house and involved in something physical where you have the opportunity to say hello to other people," says McCurdy. "Both the physical act of moving around and the psychological impact of relating to others outside of your job helps keep our mind and body stimulated."
I know, I know! Call someone? Like pick up the phone and call them, as opposed to texting them? It does seem mind-boggling and, honestly, a bit scary, but Rubin highly recommends it. "Instead of texting a friend, call him or her!" exclaims Rubin. "Take short connection breaks to have a conversation with a peer."
According to Forbes, there are currently more than 11,000 shared office spaces in the United States, with a projection of there being 26,000 by 2020. What this means is that, if you work remotely but can't stand being alone all the time, sharing an office space, especially if you work in a city that has them, is a great option. You also might make a new friend!
Having a group of people to turn to during the day, while you're glued to your desk, can also help you feel less lonely.
"Being [able] to interact with others in your field often gives the feeling of being in a community," says McCurdy. "You may have the chance to ask questions and offer input and support to others in similar situations."
Although it's easy to stay put once you're inside, Rubin recommends getting out there, as in leaving your apartment, to socialize. "Set a schedule with a hard stop and make plans with friends or significant others for weeknight evenings," she says.
As someone who works remotely and volunteers (because those shelter dogs won't hug themselves), I never really thought about how volunteering has a positive effect on my mental state, but McCurdy showed me the light.
"Give back," says McCurdy. "Mentor, volunteer, or help out in some way. You are not alone in the world. Don't let yourself forget that."
Although plants aren't very likely talk to you (sort of like my assistant, Hubbell), they do bring life to your workspace. Rubin suggests adding a couple plants to your apartment, especially in the space where you spend most of your time working. It gives you something you need to take care of and you can, technically, talk to it as long as you accept the fact that they won't be talking back... and if they do, then it's probably time for a vacation.
Working remotely is definitely liberating, but it doesn't come without some drawbacks. By nature, we're social creatures, so it's totally normal to feel lonely when you spend so much time alone. So before that happens or, if it's happening to you now, make these slight changes in your routine. You'll not only feel less alone, but will be happier for it.