We all know that community provides a sense of belonging and empowerment. In the workplace, it allows us to learn from one another and acquire better skills, which enhances collaboration and morale.
Psychologists have always warned about the dangers of excessive isolation. While we all need alone time, it is not good for our mental or physical health to regularly be without others. The past 2 years have demonstrated just how damaging isolation can be. Anxiety and depression have increased throughout every demographic, even among those who are not typically anxious nor depressed.
While experts have acknowledged that quarantines, lockdowns, masks, school closures, and evolving regulations have impacted our mental health, there is one area they tend to overlook. Remote work. While many prefer the many benefits of remote work, others find it isolating and challenging. So, how can you survive the adjustment to remote work and maintain your sanity? Read ahead for more insight.
Why Remote Work is Isolating
First, it helps to understand why remote work can feel so isolating. Obviously, we are alone and removed from our colleagues, which is difficult enough. But it is more than just that.
Internal company information tends to get lost more frequently unless there is an organized system in place to prevent it. This can be disorienting and frustrating, which hurts morale and increases a sense of isolation.
It is also harder to maintain connectivity between teams, as well as share information. While remote workers can easily send documents or emails back and forth, there is no way to talk to someone in person. In-person interactions are good for communicating complicated information or making quick requests.
Employees know the other person is listening and received the information because they are right there in front of them. They can also read verbal and non-verbal cues such as eye contact, body language, etc. This allows workers to know whether a person understands the information or not. In other words, it makes work life much easier.
Furthermore, so much of the workplace is about the culture. It is harder to interact with colleagues on a personal level when not in the office. There is no breakroom, place to walk with a friend on 10-minute breaks or team lunches. It is also harder for management to interact on a personal level with team members. While this lack of interaction may not bother you at first, it can wear on you over time. This is particularly true for teams that require regular comradery and huddles, such as the sales department.
Finally, being at home alone all day in front of a computer is not great for anyone’s mental well-being. It can become claustrophobic and depressing, particularly if you are in a small apartment or are renting out a room.
Tips to Handle Isolation
If working from home is not for you, there are still plenty of jobs that are on-site. However, not everyone can afford or wants to switch jobs. You may enjoy your work but are just not thrilled about working from home. So, what can you do to make the work week cheerier? Here are some top tips.
· Work out of the House – There is no rule that states you need to work every day inside the house. You are free once a week to go to a coffee shop, a friend’s house, or anywhere else to work. While this may not be feasible every day, it can be a great thing to do once in a while.
· Encourage Virtual Team Meetings – If you are a manager, encourage weekly meetings on Zoom to maintain morale and improve collaboration. If you are an employee, ask a friend who is a colleague if they want to do a 10-minute coffee break Zoom call every day. There are plenty of ways to go about this.
· Facilitate Get-Togethers – See if your team wants to get together for happy hour or coffee once a month. This can give you something to look forward to.
· Get Outside – Take breaks throughout the day to get some fresh air. Walk around the neighborhood, or eat lunch at the park. The benefit of remote work is that you have this liberty.
· Make Plans After Work – Keep your non-work schedule full of fun activities. Take the kids to the beach, meet a friend for dinner, or go on a short getaway with your partner. Much of anxiety and depression stems from a monotonous routine. Add spontaneity to your life.
· Call Someone – When you start to feel stir-crazy, call a best friend or co-worker for a few minutes. Talk about non-work things. This will help you feel connected to others.
· Pick a Project – Choose a project to work on around the house during your downtime. This will help keep your mind busy.
· Talk to a Therapist – Talking to a therapist can help you deal with feelings of anxiety and depression. If you have tried all of these tips and are still not feeling better, this may be a good option for you.
Do you feel isolated or depressed? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our staff members will be happy to set up an appointment for you.