Loneliness is a silent killer.
It creeps up on you like a bug – crouching by the bed, lurking in the bathroom, attached to your email, animating your phone screen, and hidden between the lines in your text messages.
You know it is there, and its presence leaves you feeling empty, anxious, depressed, and isolated. As if you were stranded alone on Mars.
The prevalence of these unpleasant feelings raises the question: why is there still so much taboo surrounding loneliness caused, or exacerbated by, working from home?
According to Cigna’s 2020 Loneliness Index, about 61% of adults were classified as lonely in 2019, compared to 54% in 2018.
That rise correlated with an increase in remote work. Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the worldwide stay-at-home/shelter-in-place rules and recommendations, the number of remote workers has already increased exponentially in 2020. A respective rise in the loneliness quotient is inevitable.
The Lonely Life of a Remote Worker
The upside of a work-from-home single is that there’s a lot of freedom, especially when it comes to your own time. The remote set up allows you to be anywhere and work anywhere, anytime, depending on the schedule you create for yourself. You might imagine these individuals to be homebodies, those who barely go out and prefer the comforts of their own home.
But remote workers aren’t all recluses. In fact, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, a large class of them called themselves digital nomads and prided themselves on their ability to work from anywhere in the world, preferably in a hammock, nursing a beverage.
In short, they have a pretty well-balanced life.
Now, global social distancing rules and stay-at-home orders have forced even this class of remote worker to stay indoors. While working alone is not new to them, isolation indoors can increase feelings of loneliness for them and lead to real problems. Reclusiveness, depression, loss of self-confidence, fear of rejection, lowered productivity, and increased stress are a few of the most common symptoms.
Without human interaction and time spent out of doors, there’s a constant challenge in coping with one’s mental health. Isolation is ok in short intervals, but humans are not built to be alone. Even if we want to see family and loved ones, the risk of infecting them is highly likely.
Work-related stress also often stems from isolation and loneliness. Distancing yourself from others will only make you feel worse about yourself. Ensure that loneliness in the workplace does not creep in and make you less productive.
Loneliness can be hard to get over, but it can also be difficult to avoid. The best way feel less lonely is to be able to relax and feel connected to others. When you are present, and you feel important, there’s less tendency to isolate yourself.
Establish Routines to Fend Off Loneliness
A rule of thumb for work-from-home singles: establish a routine!
Don’t just jump out of bed and immediately start working — this can disorient you and even set the tone of your day. Allow yourself time to shift into gear for the day through a morning routine, whether that means coffee, mindfulness meditation, or a Japanese sword-fighting session.
In addition to having a routine, you also need to break from the routine to combat loneliness in a work-from-home scenario. Take a left turn on your grocery run and travel home via a sidestreet. Novelty fires dopamine in your brain – which is why curiosity is an antidepressant. Cultivate novelty and curiosity within the parameters of your routine and you will have found the key to defeating loneliness at its own game.
Virtual Communities, Real Benefits
Despite the benefits of working from home, you have to offset the sense of isolation caused by the lack of face-to-face interaction.
Virtual communities offer an accessible and effective way to lessen feelings of loneliness in a remote work situation.
Virtual communities can be found almost anywhere in the corners of the internet, from social media accounts you follow, brands and collectives, stories your friends share — the amount of content is endless!
You can participate in any of these online communities, depending on how frequently you participate in them. As an example, if you don’t get home until just before sunset, you can participate in the night chat community. In the day chat community, you can play games and hang out with other members.
If you are looking for specific communities, you can find them in many places. If you are willing to pay for something, you will probably find it. The best you can do for loneliness prevention in your job from home is to find an online community that suits your lifestyle and your needs.
You should be able to find various types of online communities in your area. Some of them may be free, but there are many free options, too.
Some communities offer a certain level of privacy. For those of you who want more privacy, you may wish to look into paying for a membership.
From Isolation to Communication
Loneliness and isolation have a negative impact on a person’s self-esteem. Those who get depressed, anxious, and pessimistic are the ones who isolate themselves in the workplace.
If you catch yourself isolating, stop! Communicate instead. Even if you’re quarantined with COVID-19, there are dozens or more tech tools that will help you communicate with people who care about you right now.
The very nature of work means that people often need to communicate with others to help keep their motivation high. In fact, being in a meeting with other people is probably the most valuable feeling you can have at work.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to people as well. Even a short conversation between you and your colleagues go a long way in uplifting one’s day. Acknowledging someone else’s presence is very uplifting not only for yourself, but as well as the person you’re talking to.
Social Media: Not Always Social
Perhaps this one comes as a surprise: staying off social media makes you less lonely. Seven out of ten heavy social media users report feelings of loneliness. Meanwhile, of the so-called light social media users, just 52 percent said they felt lonely.
Whether or not social media makes you lonely depends highly on how you use it. The more networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok, and Reddit serve as a replacement for physical connection, the greater chance of self-inflicted loneliness. There is also a tendency to compare one’s self to their peers on social media.
A lot of individuals are taking to social media their feelings and reactions to certain aspects of their lives. Not everyone is comfortable doing so but if you feel like sharing bits and aspects of your life to friends, feel free to do so.
Even then, remember to detach from your social media every now and then, and focus on hobbies such as cooking, working out, reading etc. A break from social media allows you to clear your mind, and make space for learning new things.
Wrap-Up: Not Only The Lonely
In conclusion, those who work from home alone can’t avoid feeling lonely or isolated. However, there are several loneliness prevention techniques that can help make the corners of your single work-from-home set up a little less isolated.
Creating a routine to spice up your day, communicating, and finding activities outside of your phone screen are just a few things one can do to ease the loneliness while working from home in this pandemic.