By Ashley Stahl, Originally Published in Forbes
Loneliness has become an epidemic, especially among Millennials and Gen-Z.
I used to find myself wondering how this was true when we live in a world where you can pick up your phone and connect to thousands of people in a moment’s notice.
Needless to say, my work as a business and career coach has allowed me to help many clients struggling with job dissatisfaction. Their dissatisfaction comes down to many factors, one of which is feeling disconnected, and ultimately, feeling lonely.
Whether you are pursuing the unconventional path as an entrepreneur, you’re a freelancer, or you work remotely for a corporation, spending time alone all day can take its toll on your mental and physical health.
The funny truth is, you are not alone in your loneliness, a recent study reveals that over 50% of people express feeling lonely sometimes, or all the time.
The struggle here is that working remote offers some incredible benefits for certain people that prefer to work alone, productivity increases, commuting time is decreased, personalized work hours provide flexibility and salary cost savings. It would be a shame to throw that all away!
In efforts to save the benefits, I have worked with clients to improve their remote work environment and combat loneliness with these four tips.
1. Join a community.
If you have the funds, or your business is willing to support the membership, sign up to work in a coworking space. These shared office areas have been on the rise and the majority (89%) of members feel happier after joining. This twist on remote working provides the structure and the escape from home needed to stay productive and connected. It is also a great way to network, build relationships with like-minded individuals and enjoy working near others.
If you prefer to work alone, but still crave engagement, seek community and interaction elsewhere. Assess where you’re operating individually (your fitness, dinner plans, etc.) and start exploring ways to make your life outside of work more group focused. That means resisting the urge to pop headphones in and run on a treadmill after work. Instead, join an intramural sports team or a gym with group classes. We all know that physical activity has major health benefits, but you will now be engaged and interacting with a consistent crew of people.
If fitness isn’t your jam, become a member of a networking group, your city council or a volunteer organization that meets regularly. You can create an account at volunteermatch.org and sign up to be notified about special or reoccurring volunteer options in your neighborhood.
2. Create an optimal workspace.
Working from the comfort of your home sounds great at first, but then you end up emailing from the bed, holding conference calls at your kitchen table and reviewing documents on your couch.
Do not turn your entire home into your office, especially not your bedroom. No one wants to sleep in their work cubicle, and neither should you. When you bring workplace stress, and anxiety into your bedroom, you’re potentially due for some insomnia and poor sleep.
Instead, block off a small area, or room, that is fully dedicated to your work. Start by considering what is going to generate the most distraction (the pile of dishes or the laundry machine running) and then set your space up far away from whatever it is.
When it is time to go to work, step into your office. And when it is time to leave work, make an agreement that you will actually leave. Shut your computer down, turn the lamp light off, give yourself a mental break and don’t go back to it until the next day.
The isolation from your work can slowly begin to creep into all aspects and areas of your life, don’t let that happen.
3. Use technology as a source of connection.
Employees use email (45%) text messaging (15%) and instant message (12%) as the means of communication at work, but these methods create an invisible wall due to lack of person-to-person interaction.
Use technology as a means of connection by calling people to have important conversations or meetings. Better yet, set up conference calls using applications such as Facetime or Zoom. Our brains have a special section (fusiform gyrus) used to recognize faces and facial expression… And there for a reason. When you can visually see someones face, your communication improves, and in turn, it creates a bond and connection that would not otherwise get built.
So get that virtual face-to-face interaction during the workday!
4. Visit the office.
If you work for a large corporation, talk with your manager about coming on site a dedicated number of times each year, perhaps once a quarter.
When you are on site, set up as many productive in-person meetings as possible. If there is one person you always find yourself emailing, reach out and have lunch with them during your visit. This will evoke a sense of connection, empathy and intimacy with your coworker that is otherwise lost. When you return home from your visit, you will remember, and be remembered, by more people. This human to human bonding creates a deeper connection to your work.
If you own your own company, when you have clients in town or coworkers nearby, commit to meeting in person. Not only are you building relationships, but you are also being more productive. In fact, one study indicates that one face-to-face conversation is the equivalent to 34 emails.
Allow that human-to-human interaction to take place whenever possible in order to combat feeling so alone in your work world.
If you experience feelings of loneliness, realize you are not alone. But also know, loneliness has the same health effects as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. So take this seriously. Begin to implement these tips, and reach out if you ever need someone to talk to!
For a FREE course to land a new job you love, launch your dream business, or find your purpose, visit https://ashleystahl.com/