Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the number of people working from home has skyrocketed. While the number of individuals working from home was on the rise even before the pandemic, these numbers have only continued to grow since.
One of the biggest complaints from people who work from home or from home-based small businesses is loneliness. Studies cite loneliness as one of the key psychological issues people face when working from home. This is often due to the fact that many people who work from home and those who start small businesses from home are unprepared for an isolated working environment.
In this article, you will learn more about the effects of working in isolation and how to combat loneliness when working from home.
What is Working From Home Loneliness?
Working from home loneliness refers to a gradual onset of feelings of loneliness that people experience when they’ve worked in isolation for a prolonged period of time. If someone is isolated at home for days on end and their feelings of loneliness aren’t addressed, working from home loneliness could lead to burnout, stress, and even working-from-home depression.
What Causes Working-from-Home Loneliness?
Unfortunately, companies employing remote workers often expect their employees to be more productive in their own home office than they might be at the workplace. In fact, studies have found that employees working from home during the pandemic were putting in longer hours than ever before. When it comes to working from home, the lack of physical distance separating peoples’ work life from their personal life has led to issues with not only maintaining work-life balance, but also to burnout.
Longer work hours can heighten a person’s sense of loneliness and prevent them from taking measures to counteract their isolation by engaging in social activities. The biggest contributing factor to working from home loneliness is a lack of social interaction. If working from home loneliness is not properly addressed, it could lead to working from home depression.
What is working from home depression?
There is some debate over whether working from home causes depression. However, it is generally agreed that sustained isolation and a prolonged lack of social engagement can lead to depressive states or exacerbate existing conditions. This is what is referred to as working from home depression. It’s a kind of situational depression people experience when there are significant changes to their lifestyle that are potentially traumatic or stressful, resulting in a persistent feeling of sadness or lack of interest.
Why do people work from home?
Faster broadband speeds, innovative video-conferencing systems, and avoiding long commutes are big contributors to the rising trend of working from home offices. And while working from home can be alienating and lonely at times, there are undeniable benefits to it that make working from home a better option for some people.
For instance, working from home helps people save time and money. For people struggling financially, working from home might be the only solution they have. Increases in the cost of living, especially in crowded cities where the majority of businesses operate, can put financial stress on individuals and pressure them to work from home to avoid the costs of commutes, higher living expenses, food, etc.
These issues are compounded for entrepreneurs looking to start a new business and in need of office space. With the rising cost of rent, it is becoming increasingly difficult for small business owners to rent spaces at affordable prices while still having enough money left over to support themselves. This can add pressure for business owners to work from home.
Working from home is not for everyone, but this does not mean that no one wants to work from home. Some do find that it actually turns out to be more productive. This can be especially true when they are doing highly concentrated activities such as writing, editing, and researching. Working alone, rather than in a room full of colleagues, can be very productive – but the reality is that even while they may find it more productive to work from home, these same people might experience feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Who works from home?
According to a YouGov poll, researchers found that 28% of office workers now regularly work from home. Of these, the vast majority of home workers (who do not go into an office on a regular basis) are entrepreneurs, contract workers, and self-employed individuals.
These types of people likely suffer the most from loneliness and isolation because they don’t have the support of colleagues or the interactions and camaraderie they would normally receive in an office environment.
Tips for how to not feel lonely working from home
So how to not feel lonely when working in isolation? What can be done to prevent loneliness taking hold when working from home?
Recent studies highlight the significance of small, seemingly insignificant interactions. These interactions can actually have a significant impact on a person’s sense of happiness and belonging. The seemingly irrelevant daily interactions with the barista at your local coffee shop, the brief exchanges with your next-door neighbour on your way to or from work, or the conversations you have with your coworker on a lunch break help to promote a sense of belonging and community. These interactions are missing when working from the privacy and seclusion of your home.
Develop a Social Network
Developing a network and arranging to meet up with other home-based business owners for a coffee or lunch to get some social interaction can be a great way to ameliorate working from home depression or loneliness. This way you can talk over problems or offer each other advice. Even a brief coffee meeting can get you back in the right mood to get things done.
There are many local business networking groups that help individuals connect with other people who work from home, most of which are free to join. This not only helps people get out of their homes for some social interaction but also facilitates professional networking.
Another great way to prevent loneliness is to consider walking away from your keyboard or your email and instead make a phone call or even a Skype call to colleagues or customers. This brings more human interaction into your work day and can give back that feeling of being connected rather than isolated from human interaction.
One of the most effective antidotes to loneliness and isolation is interacting and socializing with other people. Taking regular breaks to get outside and interact with others, whether meeting with a coworker for a quick coffee or going out for lunch with a friend, encourages you to socialize with others and prevents you from feeling lonely.
Join a Coworking Office Community
Working outside of your home office at least once a week can also be a good option. This is part of the reason that coworking business centres are becoming more popular. While there are some collaborative aspects to these centres, they can still be used by people who want to work alone without feeling alone. There are some people who will take their laptop computers to the local public library simply because being in close proximity to other people alleviates feelings of isolation.
Get Involved in Online Communities
If you don’t have colleagues or customers to regularly interact with, don’t worry. You can get involved in any number of online communities. You can join virtual coworking sessions with strangers, friends, or coworkers simply by Zooming into a session and deciding how long you want to work together. This is a fun way to meet new people while helping you stay focused on your work.
Alternatively, you can join community forums where you can chat with like-minded people who share your passion–whether it be your work, a hobby, or other interests. In addition to helping you get to know new people, it can also help you learn new things.
Schedule Social Activities:
Yet another way to deal with isolation is to have regularly scheduled activities that get you out of your home. A few times a week you can plan to go to a local coffee shop, the gym, or even take a nice long walk during a lunch break. This not only breaks up the monotony of working in isolation, but could also alleviate working-from-home depression and give you a chance to network with people whom you did not expect to be potential customers or clients. Make time for social activities and don’t feel guilty about doing them because they are invaluable to your mental health.
Schedule time at least once a day to call or check in on a family member or friend and let them know how you’re doing. Sometimes just sharing how you are feeling can make it less overwhelming. Spend extra time with family and friends. Make time for human connection because this will keep you one step ahead of the loneliness that comes with working in isolation.
Make a habit of going outside for a bit every day. Loneliness hits harder when it sits with you in the same room for days on end. Going for a walk through the park and getting fresh air can help alleviate some of the loneliness. Go to the gym or exercise to give yourself a break, take care of your physical health, and create opportunities for social interaction.
There is no one way to completely eliminate loneliness when working in isolation. But walking, going to the park, and meeting clients and co-workers away from your home office are just some of the ways you can make it a less lonely experience and mitigate some of the working-from-home depression that many people experience when working in isolation. Don’t be afraid to reach out and connect with a colleague, family member, or friend. Remember that just being near others can make you feel more connected to the world outside the personal bubble that you call your “home office.”
If you are struggling with working from home loneliness or simply thrive in a social working environment, Telsec offers a variety of cozy, upscale coworking offices that provide entrepreneurs and other business professionals with a social work environment that can help prevent the feelings of loneliness that arise when working in isolation. Check out Telsec’s coworking office spaces and see which one best suits your personal needs and work style.