81% struggle with feelings of loneliness when #WFH

These simple hacks can help.
Feelings of ennui are common for workers who regularly work from home.

Last month we tackled issues related to coping with a home-based office in winter. But in reality, the biggest hurdle isn’t necessarily the cold weather – it can be more the mental challenge of knowing that you’re spending day after day with no colleagues to keep you company and to break up the day with some chatter. This is obviously truest for those who live alone.

Sometimes, it takes losing something to realise that maybe you’re okay with it in small doses. Such as office gossip, or even the excuse to dress up in the morning. In winter it tends to become even more obvious, as going out decreases considerably, it gets darker faster and it’s generally easier to feel alone.

There’s no need to feel inadequate if this is the case – know you are not alone, and this is a feeling that many of us share. At least 81% of us, in fact, according to a survey held across the UK during 2022, which found that the vast majority feel more isolated since they started working from home. While the feeling is understandable, it doesn’t mean that we can’t take measures to try and improve this. Here are some of my favourite coping methods.

Stop trying to get out of meetings

We’ve all seen the memes about the meeting that could have been an email. Undoubtedly, when you’re busy as hell and the deadlines are beckoning, an unnecessary meeting can add more stress. This is not to say that all meetings are evil. After all, when we had a normal office life we tended to waste more time in general chit-chat anyway. Think about it – a trip to the bathroom can easily take up 15 minutes at the office. This is very unlikely to happen when you’re WFH. Unless you live in a palace, in which case we’re not going to feel sorry for you anyway.

Use the time gained, to make the most of those ‘useless’ meetings. Chances are that your colleague called it simply because they, too, feel the need to exchange a few sentences with another human. If nothing else, when you get offline you’ll start appreciating the solitude of your home a lot more.

Join all the right channels

Don’t only slack colleagues to ask about a work-related issue, use your office messaging platform for a spot of socialising. Naturally, be wary of becoming a nuisance. No-one wants to be the person who sends 20 dad jokes a day and then misses a deadline. But reasonable socialising is acceptable, and usually welcomed.

At one of my former companies, for example, it was considered the norm to start the day with a few good morning messages and gifs. At another organisation, we had a variety of specific group channels that targeted different interests, from pets to LGBTQI+ life, sports and whatever you can think of. Don’t hold back from joining, even if you’re on the shy side. The advantage is that you can mute these channels when you’re too busy, and then catch up on the banter when it’s convenient. The plus side? You’re automatically part of a community.

Set boundaries

While some silly employers like Elon Musk seem to think that working from home equals skiving, reality is that you tend to end up working longer hours from a home office. A report by video conferencing company Owl Labs found in 2021 that, on average, people who work from home work an entire day more than their colleagues at the office.

Think about it. You start work earlier because there’s on commute. You don’t stop to chat to anyone. And you finish off later because, again, no commute. And if your laptop pings after dinner, the temptation to just take care of whatever it is is very great. This does not spell great things for mental health. Ideally, you should plan a start and finish routine and stick to it, otherwise you risk feeling like you’re never getting off work. And when you add bad weather on top of that, nothing good will follow.

Seek help if you’re struggling

Thankfully, there is a lot more awareness about mental health nowadays. Which means that finding professional, confidential and affordable help is not difficult. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is very real, and if you’re a sufferer you’ll find it even more difficult to cope with a work from home scenario.

But you don’t need to have SAD to be affected by the winter gloom. If you’re not coping with negative feelings, reach out to one of the many agencies that can offer support, such as sosmalta.org. Nowadays, organisations like Richmond Foundation also offer their services online for those who are put off by face-to-face sessions.

Serving up the facts:

  • 97% of global workers would like their work to be partially remote according to 16% of companies across the world are now remote (OwlLabs)
  • 8 in 10 workers work at least 1 day a week remotely, post-pandemic (NorthOne)
  • 25% of employees find it difficult to disconnect when working remotely (Buffer)
  • 24% feel lonely when working remotely (Buffer)

Struggling? Organisations like Richmond Foundation (Tel 2122 4580) can help. For other Sunday Circle magazine feature re mental well-being check out this feature about carving a stress-free zone.

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