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Your Connection is Down – 15 Ways to Fight Remote Loneliness

Work

Lawrence Haywood 21 Sep 2022 8 min read

When you think of the perfect job, what are the aspects that make it?

Flexible hours? Good benefits? Cultural appropriation Fridays?

What about the people?

In 2016, one anonymous contributor to The Guardian wrote how he lay in bed, staring at the ceiling when he should have been on his way to work.

He loved his job and he got paid well to do it. Still, that morning, he couldn’t shake the feeling of dread at another day in the office.

He was surrounded by ‘clever, funny, like-minded people’ on a daily basis, but connected with none of them. His two previous work friends had left the company, and now that he was in charge of a team a generation apart from him, he felt totally isolated for 45 hours a week.

His productivity dropped and he began struggling to put in the minimum effort required for his job.

That’s when he accepted that workplace loneliness is a real problem.

Now that we’re on the other side of a pandemic, maybe it’s hit you too. Especially if you’re working from home where real human interaction is rare, if existent at all.

But don’t worry, there are ways to fight back…

Why your Loneliness Matters

Loneliness might be one of those conditions that feels all too easy to sweep under the rug. But this ain’t no stomach ulcer (seriously, you should get that checked out) and this ain’t no ‘out of sight, out of mind’ thing.

Loneliness lives entirely within the mind.

It eats away at your thoughts and your actions until you’re a husk of a human, doing the bare minimum for your online job before spending the entire evening trying to haul yourself out of your negative funk in time for work the next morning.

  • If you’re lonely, you’re 7 times less likely to be engaged at work. (Entrepreneur)
  • You’re twice as likely to think about quitting your job when you’re lonely. (Cigna)
  • Feeling lonely at work limits individual and team performance, reduces creativity and impairs reasoning and decision making. (American Psychiatric Association)

So, loneliness is a disaster for your remote job, but it also goes far beyond your work output.

It’s a battle for your mental and physical health:

Shutting yourself off when working at home can be dangerous. Image courtesy of HelpGuide.

Wow. No wonder loneliness has been declared a health epidemic.

It’s even contagious. Seriously; like an actual virus. One study by the University of Chicago found that non-lonely people who hang around lonely people can catch the feeling of loneliness.

So for the sake of your career, your health and others around you, it’s time to make some changes.

Tips to Feel Connected in your Remote Job

Remote loneliness may feel like a drawback you have to endure for the privilege of working in a cushty, private environment, but the fact is that you shouldn’t be enduring it at all.

We are all social creatures and basic human connection shouldn’t be considered a commodity to trade for comfort.

You can have both. It’s up to both you and your workplace to find out how, but here are some tips you can try out now:

What you can do…

#1 – Get out the house

You’re 3 times more likely to feel socially fulfilled while working at a coworking space.

We tend to think of working from ‘home’ as strictly from home, but sitting alone in the same chair with the same four walls all day is a surefire way to make yourself as miserable as possible.

It’s a big world out there and it’s full of people like you. Get out to a cafe, library or coworking space; you’ll find comfort and companionship in the presence of other remote workers and you’ll have a different environment that offers more stimulation than your home office.

Oh, and that includes lunch, too! Head to a restaurant or simply have your own lunch in a park, surrounded by nature.

#2 – Organise a small workout session

Stay with me on this one…

It’s no secret that exercise increases the amount of dopamine in the brain and generally lifts your mood. The only thing better than doing it alone is doing it with other people.

Set a quick 5 or 10 minutes every day to exercise together. Simply call someone in the office and arrange the cameras so they’re filming you and the team doing a few minutes of planks, some press-ups, sit-ups and whatever else.

If you do it for a while, they’ll associate you with the dopamine hit they get each day. Soon, they’ll be jumping at the chance to talk to you.

Make time to move. Image courtesy of Yahoo.

#3 – Make plans outside of work

The only thing that can really combat loneliness is spending time with people you love.

Maybe you get to the end of a working day in which you’ve not talked to anyone. If it goes unchecked, that negative feeling can really linger throughout your evening and even into the next morning, when it manifests into dread at another working day.

A simple 20-minute coffee date with a friend can make a world of difference. Quick meetings with those close to you can act as a reset button and help you tackle another day in the remote office.

#4 – Set up a ‘casual’ chat at work

The most fulfilling conversations with colleagues are rarely about work.

Set up a ‘casual’ group on your work’s internal messaging system and chat about sports, pets, food; the usual things you’d talk about around the water cooler.

Getting out of the ‘work’ mindset and into the human mindset this way will help you forge better connections with your coworkers. They’ll also appreciate the small break from work and will be more likely to engage in it in the future.

#5 – Call, don’t text

As humans, we’re much more influenced by a person’s face than their words.

Don’t be lazy – next time you need someone for something, even if it’s small, give them a call.

Seeing your face on the regular will remind everyone that you’re very much a member of the team and not some faceless entity that sometimes messages to say they can’t hear you during a meeting.

#6 – Get a pet

Companionship takes many forms and one of the most common is between a human and their pet.

Most pets, but especially dogs, are fantastic at giving us a boost when we feel lonely. They’re always there for you, right next to (or on top of) your feet while you’re working.

Along with providing relief from the loneliness of remote work, they also give you a great talking point whenever you call your colleagues.

Honestly – adopt a little doggo and see how many people want to video call you.

#7 – Strike up the convo

This one may sound obvious, but a lot of us tend to sit back and wait for the conversation to come to us.

If your colleagues are busy they might not necessarily think to spark up a chat in the way it might naturally arise in the office. Be the first to say something; you’ll likely find that people would love a catch-up.

#8 – Try meditation

Weird how an activity you do on your own is so effective at relieving loneliness.

But it really is effective. Of 13 studies on the effects of meditation on loneliness, 11 of them showed a positive correlation.

You don’t need more than 5 minutes a day for this one. Do it before work if possible; you might be surprised at how quickly you start kicking off days with more positive vibes.

Even better – try hosting a group meditation class for colleagues. Everyone could certainly benefit from 5 minutes away from their desks for a bit of spiritual enlightenment.

#9 – Get off social media

Sure, we all need breaks from the laptop throughout the workday, but those breaks should be far from your Facebook feed.

Many studies have shown that there’s really nothing ‘social’ about social media. Doomscrolling, the all-too-common act of flying down your feed, doing nothing but looking, is appalling for your sense of loneliness.

Do yourself a favour: on your next break, put down your phone and move around instead. The physical and mental benefits are way stronger than anything you’d get on TikTok.

Doomscrolling is the single worst thing you can do when you’re feeling lonely.

What your boss can do…

#10 – Hold regular check-in sessions and surveys

How often does your boss check on how you’re feeling?

If you’re not sitting down together to talk at least once a month, try suggesting it. One-on-ones are an important part of making sure everything is okay with the company’s best assets – you and your colleagues.

If suggesting this doesn’t seem feasible, then maybe suggest that HR should send out a simple survey in which staff can rate their own loneliness. Keeping these check-ins regular will make sure everyone’s feeling their best at work.

Again, if you’re struggling to get your point across, relay how devastating loneliness can be for their bottom line. They’re sure to fold after that.

#11 – Include you more in meetings and decisions

It’s nothing personal, but your boss might often forget you’re there.

It’s not your lack of striking facial hair, it’s just that it’s easy to neglect to include you in meetings and decision-making sessions because there’s already so much to organise for in-office staff.

Reminding them to be conscious of the fact that you’re there and ready to contribute is always a good idea.

#12 – Build teams with common goals

I’m sure that a lot of the time, you feel like you’re working completely on your own.

Well, you’re not. You’re part of a collective and your boss should always be arranging work so that it feels like it.

Loneliness subsides when you feel you’re working towards a common aim. It’s a great and relatively simple way to improve camaraderie amongst you and your co-workers.

#13 – Host regular team building

Team building doesn’t have to be (and really shouldn’t be) one big alcohol-infused trip to Cancún per year.

The best (and least groaned at) team building sessions are delivered in short bursts. Some regular 5-minute activities at the start or end of each meeting will help you and your colleagues to build lasting connections over time.

Feel the connection through quick, non-cheesy team building. Image courtesy of Aircall.

💡 Check out these 14 virtual team building games your boss can start including into your online meetings!

#14 – Lower the pressure

According to the Harvard Business Review, the more exhausted you are, the lonelier you are.

Burnout is a huge problem in a lot of modern companies, where it often find its roots in loneliness. Your boss can reduce burnout by managing their expectations of you and your work, giving you realistic goals and offering praise regularly.

This will help you feel calmer, more free and less lonely.

#15 – Have a mental health allowance

Your mental health matters more than anything else in your job. Employers are starting to recognise that.

92% of employers expanded their support for mental health and emotional wellbeing after the COVID pandemic, so there’s no reason yours couldn’t do the same.

It’s great practice for a company to offer a monthly budget that covers some of the cost of mental health programs for each member of staff. It’s a great chance for you to escape the draining cycles of loneliness in the home office.

Start Small, Make Connections

Loneliness is a chronic problem. Don’t let it fester.

Making friends at work can seem like a really daunting task for some of us, but like with anything in life, you just need to start with tiny steps.

Try some of the tips above that initially seem the most realistic for you; maybe that’s starting a casual chat channel on Slack or leading 5 minutes of exercise a day.

Later on, when you’re feeling a little closer to your colleagues, you can try some other initiatives and maybe even try to convince your HR department that investing in the battle against loneliness would be a hugely worthy cause.

Remember, loneliness is the result of detachment, not of rejection. It’s rarely personal and it’s always changeable.

Now, you have your weapons. Go and conquer your solitude.

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