With the spread of the novel coronavirus affecting everything apect of ordinary life, mitigating COVID-19 in Italy and the entire world has become the first concern.

In addition to this, due to the fast propagation in the country, the italian government has imposed draconian rules nationwide to contain the epidemic.

That’s why the majority of companies are mandating that as many employees as possible work remotely until the virus can be slowed.

There’s no denying that COVID-19 is a very unfortunate event that’s caught everyone by surprise. We’re certainly living through difficult times and this situation will likely remain for a while. But rather than panic, let’s work on what we can control.

Obviously figuring out ways to work smarter and more efficiently is nothing new. However COVID-19 has forced the issue sooner than expected, and the whole world is being pushed quickly towards a smarter, remote working life.

Plenty of people fantasize about working from the comfort of their own home, foregoing their commute in favor of more sleep, family or exercise time.

But working remotely is a double-edge sword — sure, you get to stay home, but it can be harder to focus on actually working.

Whether it’s a pile of laundry that suddenly looks more appealing than your bosses’ to-do list, or a quick three-hour binge of that one Netflix show you’ve been dying to watch, staying productive at home can take a little extra effort. Plus, the isolation can quickly become a downer for those used to socializing at work. And some people, of course, would prefer to stay in the office.

In his recent book Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation”, Dan Schawbel highlights the rise of remote work as a potentially harmful trend in the modern workplace. Among his key conclusions (largely based on interviews with numerous managers at major companies such as American Express and Intuit) — is that the more we work apart, the less we work together, and this can hinder both our productivity and our sense of community.

The remote life is liberating, but it can be lonely.

“People talk about the freedom of working remote, but not the cost, “Schawbel says. “There is a dark side of working remote and that’s the loneliness [stemming] from lack of interaction. Remote workers are more likely to quit because of loneliness and low engagement. One study found that a third of employees globally work remote always or very often, and two-thirds of them aren’t engaged. Only five percent of remote workers always or very often see themselves working at their company for their entire career compared to 28 percent who never work remote.”

What Schawbel means is that human connection is crucial and If you feel lonely as a worker, you can’t do your best work because psychologically a need is not met.

Fortunately, there are a few relatively simple ways you can take to relieve the loneliness of being a remote worker and to work efficiently:

1.   Create firm work/life boundaries.

One of the main reasons people choose to work remotely is to gain more control over their work-life balance. But, without the physical boundaries of a traditional office, remote work can easily seep into, and overwhelm, the other parts of life.

That makes it more challenging to find time to spend with family and friends, which in turn, can exacerbate your loneliness.

Below three ways to build better work/life boundaries:

  • Establish a hard start and stop time for your workday — and put those on your calendar. Even if you don’t always stick to this perfectly, the technique will force you to decide if you need (or want) to keep working or if it’s time to power down and do something else.
  • At the end of your workday, make it a ritual to turn off your computer and the lights in your home-office space and physically shut the door. This is a helpful reminder that you have “left” work and are ready for the other things in your life that matter, like family, friends and hobbies.
  • Schedule socialization time on your work calendar; things like networking and coffee dates. When you have this in writing, you’ll be more likely to honor it.

2. Change up where you work regularly.

Remote work doesn’t always mean you have to work from home, instead, try working from the library, a co-working space or a coffee shop.

Even doing this once a week can help you feel more connected to other people.

As an example, I sometimes work from a startup incubator space near my home. While I can’t use it as an office space only for myself, there are a lot of events and seminars for free where I can update my knowlwdge and skills or network casually with new interesting people.

It’s essential to ‘change the walls,’ see other people and feel part of the larger Rome community that I miss when I’m home all day.

3.    Be proactive about reaching out to others.

When you work in an office, impromptu chats and lunch meetings with colleagues are part of the routine. But as a home-based worker, you need to be more intentional about scheduling time for conversation and connection with friends and colleagues.

Proactive communication is critical for remote workers. Often, we wait for people to contact us. Take the initiative to reach out to people. Coworkers, clients, other professionals in your field, friends, family — these people can all serve as valuable points of contact on any given day.

4. Join a community-based networking group.

I’ve participated in several community-based networking groups that have provided me with a community of  friends and colleagues I wouldn’t have easily met otherwise.

Over time, they’ve become my “tribe.” People I call on for advice, recommendations and support as well as when I just want someone to talk to over lunch.

I believe community-based networking groups are the wave of the future. We’re all experiencing digital overload , but we need more personal, face-to-face connections.

Of course, forming meaningful relationships takes effort; you can’t just go to a meeting, hand out business cards and expect to see results.

So, it’s crucial setting a connecting goal (such as meeting your group once a week) and then binvesting time for this just as you might do to engage with your network on LinkedIn.

Reach out to new members via email, strategically ask for coffee dates and become a valuable, engaged member of this community.