Is Loneliness a Growing Factor When We Work Remotely?

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Photo by Thomas Litangen on Unsplash

To be honest, I’ve really never been a “joiner”. You may identify with this sentiment.

In college, I didn’t feel the need to belong to clubs or pledge a sorority to feel connected.I’m not a one to spend every weekend out to dinner — or at some king of gathering. In an office environment, I enjoyed conversing with other like-minded individuals. Meetings never seemed to be too much of a chore, as long as discussions of challenges and up-coming projects were on the docket. Somehow this ticked a box for me.

However, even knowing my somewhat ambivalent past habits, I never dreamed I’d miss face-to-face interaction as much as I do.

I’ve been working remotely for years now and I’ll freely admit it has its lonely moments. Certain aspects of working from home are fantastic. But, somehow all of the journal articles, posts and projects aren’t the same, without a work group nearby.

I often wondered if my coaching clients who work remotely, felt the same. Turns out, many of them do.

This week I had the chance to read an eye-opening piece at Slate, concerning the stigma associated with an admission that we feel lonely (even if only from time to time). In it, the author describes the immediate inclination we have to connect loneliness with being “less than” or dare I say “loser”. That has to stop, because it’s simply not true.

Research completed by MIT Sloan, has explored this concern as applied to our work lives, discussing the isolation and lack of visibility that may come along when working remotely. These negative by-products of working remotely won’t affect all of us, as we are individuals. However, potential issues should always be on the radar. Discussions are sadly incomplete if we fail to address the common by-product of even occasional loneliness.

Even with all the available social networks, we need to feel real connection, not simply increase the amount of ambient chatter.

I have a couple of ideas for this. I’m sure we’ll uncover a number of other strategies. Here are a few for starters:

  • Check in frequently. Make a concerted effort to speak with someone in your office daily. Whether this is your manager, mentor or colleague — this will help retain a sense of belonging.
  • Visit your home office. Even if you are fully enjoying your remote work life, make plans to visit your home office as time and travel allow. If you are already feeling disconnected and you are within a reasonable distance, get there once a week. If possible, attend meetings that reinforce how you, and your work, fit into the larger picture.
  • Facilitate “on-site” sabbaticals. If you are affiliated full-time, you might consider spending a couple of weeks a year at the home office. Beyond the challenge of organizing proper a work space, this could allow far-flung colleagues to interact in-person for an extended period of time. This could do wonders for both team-building and strategy concerns.
  • Join a co-working space. Co-working is the perfect solution if you miss the “goings on” of office life. Most cities have at least a couple to choose from, so visit them and get a sense of the vibe. Sites such as WeWork and the Bond Collective, cater to those who need a place to land for work & meetings.
  • Schedule “meet-ups”. With differences in location and time zones, in can be difficult to get on the same schedule. This limits communication and a feeling of being connected. Identify a time of day, when you know you can intersect “time-wise” and speak — and hopefully a ritual will develop.

Do you work remotely? Share your strategies to limit remote loneliness here.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist advisor and coach. She also serves as an Influencer at LinkedIn.

The Poor Fit: 6 Signs That Your Job is Absolutely the Wrong One

JakeeZaccor
@jakeezaccor

Please note: We are all aware of the personal/financial ramifications when we consider a job change. Take this post in the spirit in which it was written: to be helpful.

Many of us have experienced the wrong job. Fault is difficult to assign. However, it may be dawning on you that your work life is dangerously out of alignment. Nothing is worse than throwing yourself into work —  yet things seem to continue to go very, very wrong.

The trick here? Identifying the problem for what it is (in very short shrift) and acting to make meaningful changes. Poor matches do happen. So, let yourself off the hook and avoid a longer-term soul sucking experience.

Remember that “withering on the vine” is not a viable career strategy.

Here are 6 signs that you should be paying attention to:

  • You feel lost. Have you experienced the classic nightmare that you arrive at class, only to find that you’ve not read a single page of the textbook and it is final exam day? This should not be your experience with work during waking hours. If every task or project leaves you feeling unprepared, take note: selection errors do occur. Sometimes that “next step” in your career, has been the wrong step.
  • You are in avoidance mode. Be honest with yourself — the process of going to work is absolutely excruciating. If you had your druthers, you would never set foot in the office again. If you’ve tried to make things work and you still can’t envision a future for yourself in your current role, you have a serious problem.
  • Your strengths aren’t being utilized. Ultimately our work should align with our strengths. If this is not the case, it’s time to start exploring other options. If you feel that your weaknesses have taken center stage, it’s unlikely you’ll stay energized for the long haul. Have a conversation with your supervisor now — and don’t wait.
  • You feel disconnected. Does it feel as if everyone else is on one page and you are on another? Whether you work in customer service, sales or consulting — if it feels as if you are not aligning with the vision of the organization, the person-job match may be off. If you see yourself as a lonely island (and everyone is speaking an entirely different “language”), it may be time to explore moving on.
  • You can’t seem to complete anything. Everything seems pointless and your level of motivation is at an all-time low. Are you dealing with looming deadlines with a blank screen continually staring back at you? Have you simply stopped caring? These are telling signs.
  • You are entering self-blame mode. You certainly can own the part of the problem that you’ve controlled (you’ve ignored your “inner voice”, for example). However, I guarantee there were plenty of other factors in play. The bottom line is this: You are not happy and it’s time to act. Blame doesn’t help things resolve — only a plan to move forward will.

Of course — please pay attention to physical signs of stress. If you are not sleeping or eating take heed. Feeling depressed or anxious is a clear indicator that something is off. Time to take the issue to your supervisor, a trusted mentor of career professional.

Has this ever been your experience? How did you move forward? Share the story with our community.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She also writes at LinkedIn. You can also find her on Twitter.