In Buffer’s 2018 survey, 22% of surveyed remote workers said that loneliness was a top struggle, tying for first place alongside communication and collaboration issues. This is worrying on a couple of levels.
In an age where we are less likely to know our neighbors, workplace friendships have an increasingly important place in our social lives. The coworker you chat with today can become your movie buddy tomorrow. According to the folks at Gallup, having a best friend at work can also lead to better business performance, both in terms of profit and fewer safety incidents. Lonely workers, therefore, can miss out on a chance to feel fully engaged and to work at their full potential.
It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way
Working remotely doesn’t have to lead to loneliness. There are many remote workers who make work friends, and enjoy a sense of camaraderie with people whom they never meet in person. They may occasionally feel isolated, but they have a set of steps they follow to bring more human connection into their lives. Those steps vary, depending on work configuration and personality. What works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. If we share what works for us, then that may help someone else to think of a strategy that will work for them. Anything that can help someone to feel less isolated in their office of one is a good thing.
How You Can Help
And this is where you come in. I am conducting research on how remote workers make work friends. Can you spare five minutes to fill out this survey? Once I’ve compiled the data I will write up an article with a toolkit of resources for making friends at work, and share it. Together we can help remote workers feel less isolated.
When you feel cut off from the rest of the world, here’s what you can do.
You may love working remotely, but occasionally feel a little short on basic human contact. Fortunately you can do something to feel better. Try these three things.
Science tells us that walking outside can make you feel better. This is true whether you see people outside or not. I’ve been surprised at the number of people outside in the middle of the day, even when the weather is stupid. Making eye contact and nodding at the passers by may not cure loneliness, but it’s human contact. Walking through a neighborhood is also a great way to find public spaces like libraries and coffee shops.
Work in Public
Think about libraries, coffee shops, bars, and parks. Get a little creative. I’ve lived in cities with malls that have had some great common spaces. My general rule is that it must take no more than 20 minutes get there, and cost about $5 to be there. I can usually make this work at a coffee shop if I drink tea. Also consider coworking spaces. Some of them have drop-in rates and social events to help you get in the mix.
Join a Slack Group
Sometimes you need someone to commiserate with while you work. Fortunately no matter what you do, someone has created a channel on Slack for it. A quick search for ‘Remote Slack group’ yielded THIS set of results. Be aware that some groups charge a fee. On the other hand, if a Slack group keeps you out of therapy, it’s money well spent.
Keep Calm and Carry On
Remember that occasional feelings of loneliness or isolation are natural. It doesn’t mean you aren’t cut out to be a remote worker. If you develop a set of tools to use when loneliness hits, you will ride the wave and feel more connected in no time.