Aug 26, 2021Mental health8 min read
Ways to make working remotely less lonely
This article was written in collaboration with Hrishikesh Pardeshi, the Co-founder at Flexiple. Building Remotely is a resource that is developed with your help - let us know if you want to share your experience or advice!
Almost everyone enjoys working remotely. Lack of commute, time flexibility and freedom to choose your location are only a few perks of this lifestyle. However, as goes with all good things, there are some tradeoffs.
The loneliness and isolation remote workers often face, an issue that existed long before the recent pandemic, is not being talked about enough. Loneliness is among the biggest challenges faced by remote workers.
As humans, we are social beings. You might not acknowledge the need for human interaction or even like it as a concept. However, it is clear that irrespective of our personality types, we need interaction with other beings. As such, fighting loneliness becomes a necessity while working remotely.
Even those who’ve been working remotely for years now have confessed that the feeling of isolation is one of the worst parts about remote work. Fortunately for us, these remote working veterans have also found creative ways to fight loneliness while working remotely. I'll share the ones that worked for me personally, and my team at Flexiple in this article.
How to fight loneliness while working remotely?
Fighting loneliness needs to be done at all levels: personal, company and in your community. Here’s what you can do at each of these levels:
Fighting loneliness at a personal level
1. Separate work from personal life
Unclear boundaries between work space and personal space result in a total mess of your work-life balance. To tackle this, have a dedicated workspace, be it at your house or anywhere else.
Although your work hours can be flexible, it is true that having a regular cadence of working hours results in higher productivity levels. It also helps maintain a structure in your life, giving you a sense of stability.
2. Do things you are passionate about
One way of dealing with loneliness is to pick up a new work-related skill or a hobby or work to improve an existing one. The sense of doing something you love and accomplishing something can boost your happy hormones. In turn, this keeps your loneliness at bay.
Spending time on and diving deep into the things you’re passionate about allows you to recover and relax mentally at the end of the day. This could be anything related to music, dance, pottery, gardening, etc. Anything that sparks your creative interest can have an incredibly calming effect on your body and mind.
3. Make a deliberate effort to contact your loved ones
Many of us still can't interact with our close family and friends in person, so the next best thing are video calls. Make an effort to call your family, friends and/or teammates at regularly. Do things on video that you’d also do in person. For example, have a virtual lunch with friends or celebrate a birthday with your family. It's not an ideal solution, but it does help.
4. Use tools to take care of yourself
You need to keep your health, both mental and physical, in check. With nobody to coax you to do something, it’s easy to fall into a rut of not doing anything at all. This may lead to extreme isolation and leave you feeling exhausted.
Tackle this by actually going out and getting some exercise along with finding ways to boost your mental health. You can make use of apps designed to take care of your overall health and exercise routine. You can set daily goals through these apps that will force you to exercise, meditate or go on a walk every day, which can help improve your mental health almost instantly.
Fighting loneliness at a team level
1. Acknowledge the issue and build an environment of understanding
Mental health challenges and loneliness that accompany remote work are real. It is high time companies openly acknowledge them and find ways to tackle these challenges.
It's quite easy to assume that everything's okay when you don't see or meet your colleagues. For every remote team, there needs to be an environment that encourages open conversations around loneliness and other challenges of working remotely. The company should actively encourage good physical and mental health.
2. Create dedicated channels for open discussion
Make Slack channels for common interests, appreciating others' work or simply for fun. This goes a long way in building engagement and enabling the members to connect with one another. Such dedicated channels are the easiest method to build a culture within your company that is healthy and understanding. This initiative will also help build camaraderie among the team members.
The Building Remotely podcast episode with Melissa Ng, the founder of Bravely, talked about this topic in detail:
“Building a foundation of psychological safety is really important. There are lots of different ways you can do it but the two I live by are: If somebody says something really listen. Don't hijack the conversation. Another thing is to be brave enough to be vulnerable around your team.”
3. Conduct team events
Organize regular team meetings to discuss things outside of work and have fun. In an office, teammates often socialize over water cooler chats, lunch, etc. This doesn’t organically happen when working remotely, but can be easily facilitated.
Allot time for both structured and unstructured social interactions among your team. This could be birthdays, game nights, and the like. Events where everyone can talk about something interesting that happened in the week, are great ideas to bond and have fun. If possible, also organize periodic meetups so people can physically meet up with each other. Until that becomes a possibility again, organize online gatherings where you can completely unplug from work and create something fun with your team during a hackathon.
Fighting loneliness at a community level
1. Attend events in your locality
Join a workshop/course, help out at a local charity, go on rides with the local cycling club - these are just some of the things you can do in your local community.
Try to find events that help you improve skills in a particular area of interest or just a group of like-minded people to meet up with. Regardless, it is a great way to break the monotony of working alone. The fact that you can learn a few new things along the way and make friends is a bonus. Coworking spaces make it easier to find people to work with and often organize events. Even if you don't talk to anyone during the day, you were still surrounded by other remote workers and are a part of a bigger community.
Try looking for online remote work groups in your area - there's a lot of them on Facebook! Try searching for "Remote workers -your city or country-", they often have weekly meet ups to either network or cowork together in a restaurant or a cafe.
If you're still not able to meet up with people in person, you can also attend events online! Online groups often organize physical meet-ups, and this will become a possibility again fairly soon, at least with a smaller group of people.
2. Find online communities
If you can’t find a community you are interested in your area, you might have better luck online. These communities usually have groups on texting platforms like Messenger and have calls regularly to keep the interaction going.
Also, there are quite a few strangers in the virtual world with whom you interact on social media via posts, reactions, comments, and the like. Spare a few seconds each day and drop a line to any of them. Social media is for socializing, make the most of it.
As a remote company, we do our best to connect with our team and make sure everyone is making the most out of remote work. What works best for your company? How do you connect with everyone in your team? Tweet us @safetywing!
About the author
Hrishikesh is the co-founder at Flexiple, a fully remote bootstrapped company with a network of top freelance developers. He's a big remote work advocate and has also built Remote Tools and Remote Clan.