Working from home, while convenient, is a major lifestyle change. Here are some tips to help you transition to a home office while staying connected socially.
If you work from home, you probably can relate to the fact that it gets lonely sometimes. But how can working from home be less lonely? Yes, you may have conference calls, online chats in messaging platforms, email exchanges, video calls, you name it, but at the end of the day, so to speak, you’re still alone at your desk versus physically surrounded by others.
If this describes you, you’re not the only one — according to FlexJobs’ 7th annual workplace survey of more than 3,100 respondents, 65 percent of workers think they would be more productive working from home versus in a traditional office environment. Reasons for this included fewer distractions, reduced stress from commuting, and minimal office politics. But a downside can be loneliness.
“Working from home can be an extremely lonely endeavor,” Brian Williams, coach and organizational development consultant at StratIQ Consulting, told I AM & CO. “Multiple studies point to the benefits of collaborative human interaction that occurs routinely in a conventional office environment, and to possible negative effects of teleworking. However, there are ways to help mitigate the impact of becoming isolated as a remote worker, he said.
Ketan Kapoor, CEO and co-founder of Mettl, an HR technology company and leading talent measurement firm, also suggests asking yourself why you are feeling lonely in the first place. “First and foremost, you must identify and understand the triggers behind your lonely feelings while working from home,” he told I AM & CO. “Is it because you miss the physical presence around — or there is a disconnect between your thought process and ideologies that make you feel lonely?
Most people fail to understand the true meaning of loneliness and attribute the feeling only to a physical presence, which simply isn’t the case.” He said you can still feel lonely in a thriving office environment if you are unable to connect with your peers. “Nevertheless, if the physical presence of people is what’s bothering you, there are ways to address the problem.”
Below, career experts offer their best advice on how to make working from home less lonely.
1. Make Video Calls Not Just Voice Ones
While you may prefer to make voice calls with work colleagues, video calls will make you feel less alone. “Working from home doesn’t have to be lonely,” April Klimkiewicz, career counselor and owner at Bliss Evolution, told I AM & CO. “Instead of making a voice call, make a video call. The added element of seeing someone and reacting to their body language — as well as conversation — can make you feel like you’re there.”
If you’re self-conscious about being on video — maybe you don’t want people to see your just-got-out-of-bed look — Klimkiewicz suggests planning the video call in advance. “No one wants to be caught off guard in a T-shirt and sweatpants,” she said.
2. Start A Chat Session
Perhaps you and your colleagues only communicate via email and/or phone calls. However, by starting a messaging chat, you can stay more connected, Klimkiewicz suggests. “Do you miss water cooler talk?” she said. “Start a Messenger chat or Facebook group so you can talk about what you’ve been binging on Netflix for a few minutes with a few select friends or coworkers — just be careful not to get lost in an Internet rabbit hole. I suggest setting a timer so can remember to get back to work.”
3. Get Up Early And Exercise
Exercising is not only good for you, but it can give you an added energy boost before starting your workday. “Our team is 80 percent remote,” James Deighan, data solutions specialist at Clarabyte, told I AM & CO. “I suggest getting up early to exercise first thing. It gives me a change of scenery, physical activity and, depending on the weather, some sunlight.”
4. Listen To Podcasts, Audiobooks, And Music
“As most of my work, clients, and partners are scattered across the country, I tend not to need an office other than the one at home,” Chevie Publicover, digital strategist and owner of Siege Digital Marketing, told I AM & CO. “However, this can get lonely, and when you get lonely, you can lose productivity.”
She finds that podcasts, audiobooks, and music helps fill the silence from working alone. “It sparks creativity, new ideas, and helps me to focus,” she said. “These ideas help the day move by quickly, and most importantly, distracts you from the thoughts of working alone.”
5. Get Outside
Another trick to make working from home less lonely is to leave the house. “Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you have to stay home,” Klimkiewicz said. “Take your laptop to the park or someplace else to get some work done. Sometimes, just being around people, smiling, and/or saying hi as someone passes by is enough to make you feel less lonely.”
6. Work From A Coffee Shop
Many remote workers use coffee shops as their offices, and it makes sense. “If working from home gets to be too much and you need a break and to just socialize, picking a great coffee shop to work from for the day is an awesome choice,” Publicover said. “I personally mix it up and try out new coffee shops on a regular basis and avoid any pre-ordering of drinks online. Even the smallest interactions can help remove any feelings of being lonely.”
7. Go To A Coworking Space
Coworking spaces are all the rage throughout much of the world — not only do they provide you with a calm work environment, but they also provide you with a social atmosphere. “An option we see many entrepreneurs and remote workers opt for is having a membership or virtual office at a coworking location or serviced office,” Uddy Carmi, CEO of OfficeList, told I AM & CO. “Common areas and break rooms are designed with the intent to promote interaction. Clients access the space on a regular basis and can pay for a la carte services when required.”
He says coworking spaces are also perfect to meet clients and colleagues in a professional environment and talk to other like-minded entrepreneurs. “You get the benefit of having a place to meet different from your living room or the neighborhood Starbucks,” he said. “And, you get to see other adults that are focused on growing their business(es) — and you can even grow your business while networking with other occupants and offering them your services.”
8. Set Up Lunch Meetings… Or Dinners… Or Happy Hours...
Another way to make working from home less lonely is by taking a break — such as for lunch, dinner, or Happy Hours. “Set up a lunch meeting for networking or social stimulation,” Shannon Jamail, therapist-turned-coach at Mind & Body Complete. “Networking can be overwhelming and sometimes fruitless, but by scheduling at least one lunch meeting a week, it will result in a rejuvenation of the mind and spirit to take back to the home office.”
9. Practice Self-Talk Techniques
Kapoor thinks that practicing self-talk techniques is another way to combat at-home loneliness. “Nothing beats loneliness more than having a motivating word with yourself,” he said. “Stand in the front of mirror or take a corner before you start. Ask yourself questions such as: How do I feel today? What can I do to get better physically and mentally? What have I learned over these years? Can I plan a trip?”
He cites that those are some sample questions, but you can talk to yourself about anything. “You can have conversations that allow you to have self-reflection and cut down dependency on the external factors,” he said.
10. Establish Physical And Scheduling Boundaries In A Designated Home Office
A common misconception among people who don’t work from home is that remote workers are not actually working — which couldn’t be further from the truth. However, getting enough work done may also be a challenge for the remote worker in question.
“It is often difficult for remote employees to feel like they are actually at work since they do not leave home,” Williams said. “For many with families, pets, and innumerable external temptations, productivity can be significantly curtailed.” His solution? He says setting physical limits and sticking to a daily schedule can help to increase overall output while creating the mental state of being present at work.
11. Create A Support System
Even if you are the most productive remote worker ever, you probably need some human interaction every now and then. “The idea of working from home without a nagging boss feels a blissful idea in the beginning, but later turns into a slog and causes emotional turbulence,” Kapoor said. “So, make a point to announce to your friends, family, and dear ones that you are planning to work from home — have a list of 3-4 people on whom you can fall back on, or else the idea of working from home will soon start haunting you, despite the perks it offers. Whenever you feel lonely, simply give them a short voice or video call. That’s that.”
12. Take Breaks And Have A List Of Break Activities Ready
You may be the type of person who prefers to work hours on end without taking a break — when you’re in the flow, you’re in the flow. However, making time to take breaks is crucial. “The way you manage your break time is the deal-breaker,” Kapoor said. “Loneliness raises its head when you think you have nothing else to do — but your routine work slowly takes a toll on your mental health. On the other hand, feeding a hobby can help you manage the feelings of loneliness better without feeling like sinking.”
He says to narrow down a few options that make you lose track of time and do those during your short breaks, such as self-care activities. “It can be singing, dancing, painting, meditating, stretching, exercising, or anything that disconnects you from the physical world — let the dopamine rush say goodbye to your lonely feelings.”
13. Take Pet Breaks
Even if you don’t have a pet of your own, you can offer to walk a neighbor’s dog or swing by a cat café for a work break. “I don’t know where I’d be without my pets,” Deighan said. “My dogs give me energy and my cats are glued to my computer desk throughout the day.”
Publicover agrees. “Having a dog or cat at home is one of the best ways to make working from home extremely enjoyable,” she said. “I have never felt lonely when having a dog at home, and it’s a big reason why dogs and cats are used for de-stressing students at schools before exams and for many forms of therapy.”
So, what about *you*? How do you make working from home less lonely? We’d love to hear it! Comment below!