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How to Manage Isolation and Loneliness When Working From Home

A man standing in front of the window. He's lonely and isolated.
Photo by Sasha Freemind on Unsplash

Working remotely is a trend that has grown tremendously over the past ten years. In fact, as of 2020, about 4.7 million people in the United States work from a home office and find remote work normal. Recently, countless more have joined the remote workforce as a response to the coronavirus. With lockdown orders in place, many people who’ve never worked virtually before are transitioning to an online setting.

Although remote work has many perks, working from home can feel quite isolating. With the disappearance of in-person communication and casual conversations, it’s difficult for some people to transition. Most employees have worked around people for a majority of their careers; therefore, it can be quite a shock to work alone. Without the right tools, employees can suffer from loneliness and isolation. Luckily, there are ways you can help improve your work-from-home experience for you and your team!

Loneliness and Productivity

Many believe that remote work leads to more productivity. A recent Stanford study found that employees who work a true full-shift remotely, are less distracted, less likely to complete projects late, and tend to take shorter breaks. This all sounds fantastic, but productivity is dreadfully affected when employees are lonely. In fact, a Work Loneliness and Employee Performance study from CSU Sacramento concluded that loneliness can cause poor task management and poor performance. All in all, if you want the most productive team, you’re going to have to ensure that employees feel connected and motivated.

Recognizing the Signs of Loneliness

Loneliness is an emotional condition where a person may feel estranged from or rejected by others. This person might also feel deprived of relationships and social environments. The feeling of loneliness is actually quite common, and recent studies from the UnLonely project have found that 33% of Americans are affected by loneliness.

Although loneliness influences many individuals, it is reversible when you take the right steps. Ultimately, you must understand that loneliness is an emotional response to a lack of connection between your team. That being said, in order to assist in the psychological welfare of your team, it’s important to give employees channels to communicate easily and effectively to repair any feelings of isolation.

Let’s talk about what can cause loneliness so you can recognize the signs before the damage is done. 

  • A deficit of social connections and interactions
  • Lack of recognition
  • Absence of tools and direction

A job is not just a paycheck anymore, so managers must find ways to keep employees happy. If your workforce was struck with loneliness and isolation, there are tons of steps you can take to ensure that your employees stay motivated, recognized, appreciated, and productive.

Revamping Your Communication

With remote work, employees cannot have conversations like they normally would, so it’s important to provide them with channels to communicate easily and effectively. When employees have easy ways to connect with one another, there’s a larger chance that your employees will feel connected. A study by Gallup (see below) shows us that employees need social interactions to stay motivated.

… A concrete link between having a best friend at work and the amount of effort employees expend in their job. For example, women who strongly agree they have a best friend at work are more than twice as likely to be engaged (63%) compared with the women who say otherwise (29%).

Gallup

Find ways to communicate with each other that doesn’t strictly involve professional communication. There are many tools, such as Slack that allow teams to communicate effectively. Not only is Slack used for professional team communication, but it’s also a handy tool for daily banter. The Timesheets.com team, for instance, have multiple channels in their Slack account regarding urgent matters, daily banter, general comments, and more. Communication doesn’t need to solely serve professional purposes; it’s okay to chat and have fun.

Video communication

As a manager, video conferencing is a great way to get everyone together to communicate effectively. Along with that, it’s a exceptional way to check in on employees and connect with them on a deeper level. Video conferencing is very important for remote workers because it allows employees to see one another and observe important social cues. They will be able to view facial expressions, body language, and other important non-verbal cues. For employees that are new to remote work, this is a great way to make them feel like things are back to normal.

Start Conversations

Most employees aren’t going to admit that they have problems working from home. This is because they’re either afraid that they’re causing trouble, or they don’t know how to communicate with their supervisor about their issues. So, as a manager, you should start the conversation with employees. Experts say that managers should have frequent and ongoing conversations with maximum impact. Ask employees questions that make them think and initiate a dialogue:

“How is working from home?”

“Do you miss having people around?”

“Are you getting along with ________?”

“How are your projects coming along? Do you feel like you’re getting things done?”

Recognizing Employee Accomplishments

As mentioned before, isolation and loneliness in the workplace is coupled with a lack of motivation and productivity. The best way to remedy that feeling is to make an employee feel needed and valued. As a manager, you have to show employees that you care about their well-being and hard work. If you don’t do that, employees will feel as though they’re unneeded and may isolate themselves more.

Recognition is a great, easy, and inexpensive way to show employees you care and keep them motivated and wanted. Timesheets.com has a “Brags and Breakthroughs” tool that’s especially handy for employee recognition. Available in all manager and employee accounts, people can post about team projects, news, accomplishments, and more. As you can see below, the supervisor sent a message to all employees to boost morale, which says “Thanks to new sales efforts, we’ve closed 2,000 deals this month. Thank you to John, Patsy, and Renee for all of your efforts. You rock!”

See? Such an easy way to lift the spirits of your employees.

Along with that tool, recognition can come in many forms such as:

Showing employees that they matter will certainly make them feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. When people feel included in something, they’re likely to be more productive and motivated at work. They’ll be happier knowing that the work they do makes a positive impact on the company.

The Fear of Missing Out and Loneliness

While working remotely, it can seem difficult to keep everyone on the same page. When people feel like they’re not receiving updates, they might feel removed and isolated from the team. In addition to that, when everyone is sharing information on different channels, it’s hard to get messages across promptly or effectively. It’s wise to create a company culture that encourages communication and embraces team collaboration. You can do this by creating a work from home policy that outlines how to handle news and updates. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • Where do you plan on sharing news?
  • Is there a certain timeframe to share news?
  • Are important messages sent through email?
  • How frequently are updates sent?

There’s nothing better than feeling like you’re in the loop. This is where tools such as the “Brags and Breakthroughs” tool (mentioned above), or other messaging channels will benefit your internal communication efforts.

The Takeaway

Although loneliness affects remote employees, it’s something that you can resolve. If you create a welcoming environment for employees, build strong management policies, and embrace your team’s accomplishments, you’ll succeed. Furthermore, communication is also vital to your team’s happiness. Check in on your team to see how they’re doing, let employees have a place where they can chat about things other than work, and let them speak with you when needed. By making minor adjustments to your remote workforce, you’ll avoid isolation and continue to manage a motivated and productive team.

Need a place to manage employee attendance, time off, productivity, reviews, updates, and expenses? Try Timesheets.com.

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2 Comments

  1. Vishal
    Vishal June 3, 2020

    Timely post Lindsay, personally I am finding it difficult to adapt to present situation of WFH.

    Thanks for the insights.

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers June 4, 2020

      Hi Vishal, I hope the article helped. Working from home is definitely a change for a lot of people, so the key is to make sure that you’re trying to stay social regularly. Good luck!

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