- Remote workers struggle with loneliness due to the somewhat isolated nature of WFH.
- It can be more challenging for workers to get to know each other in the remote environment — especially those new to the workforce.
- Integrating strategies that foster dynamic social interactions and relationship-building reduce loneliness for remote teams.
Working remotely breaks down social conventions in some very obvious ways. When we think of “socializing” or having a dynamic social environment, we typically consider places where people are gathered together spatially. Remote work is the total negation of such gathering.
Remote workers often report experiencing feelings of loneliness because of the less socially dynamic aspects of working from anywhere. WFH comes with many perks; the company of coworkers is not one of them.
Social isolation is an old problem. According to Aristotle, “Whosoever is delighted in solitude, is either a wild beast or a god.” Thus, it’s important to consider how social dynamics can be improved for remote workers.
Below are five ways to improve the social dynamic of remote work:
1. Talk about non-work related matters with co-workers
Remote work often lacks the informal social events or face-to-face meetings that help teams bond in the traditional office. Instead, employees who work from home attend team or one-on-one meetings that can feel impersonal.
This dynamic can be especially onerous for new workers entering the workforce who were onboarded remotely.
Meetings in traditional offices have always been opportunities to get to know your co-workers better, and that should not change with remote work. However, if you’re not comfortable with turning business meetings into social chats, there are still options and opportunities for you to chat with your co-workers in a more informal way.
Planned social events
Suggesting meetings just for informal social gatherings –whether online or in-person– is a great way to break the remote-work-ice, so to speak. Sometimes managers already have these sorts of meetings in place, but if they don’t, they might be open to it.
Working in teams
The experience of working remotely is largely working independently. Meaning that, for the most part on most days, remote workers barely interact with other people in a face-to-face manner. Working in teams or pairs is a good strategy on the part of managers to encourage positive social interactions among workers.
2. Coworking spaces
Coworking spaces are places where independent and remote workers can go to do their work. It’s a
great alternative for those who are tired of working from home or working from a coffee shop. It is also a great option for those looking for more positive social interactions during work hours.
When self-prompted, getting an office at a coworking space is a great opportunity for workers who are open-minded to meet others who work in all sorts of sectors.
Managers who work with remote teams sometimes obtain coworking spaces and allow their workers to work there free. This is an amazing opportunity to give remote workers the option to have some traditional work some of the time, without feeling too committed to coming into the office.
3. Use tools like Slack
Slack, along with other tools like Microsoft teams, allows you to be in constant contact with co-workers and managers. Now, in some instances this is obviously not ideal: what isn’t being encouraged is a culture of legitimately being in constant contact, as that will lead to burnout.
Rather, what platforms like these are good for is instantaneous contact during work hours. Not only is this good for non-work-related interactions, such as sending the occasional meme, but it is also extremely practical.
One of the best aspects of working in an office is ready access to others in case there’s a task you’ve been given that you do not understand. Instead of waiting for an email, you can just send a quick slack message!
4. Encourage or seek outdoor time
Remote work can encourage habitually staying indoors, which is ideal for some, but for most of us, going without the sun for too long will leave us depressed. Hence, remote workers should be encouraged to take some time each day –or at their discretion, depending on the person– to go outside and get some fresh air.
5. Don’t tie yourself down to one workspace
Sometimes, being in the same place for too long is what is making us lonely or agitated. As remote workers, one has the right to be a “digital nomad.” That is, there’s nothing necessarily tying you down to working in one specific location.
This should be used to your advantage. Going to various different cafes, bars, or libraries are all good places to work, where you could potentially meet new and interesting people. Exploration and adventure are highly conducive for facilitating positive social experiences, and this is no exception for remote workers at work.
Considering the potential for health risks developing as a result of social isolation, remote workers and their managers need to consider how best to combat its possibility of arising. Especially if you have transitioned from full-time in-office work to full-time remote work, it’s important to keep your social life and its relationship with your work and well-being in perspective.
It is very possible for remote workers to have positive social experiences while at work. It will take effort, as remote work is, in many respects, primed for introversion. Nonetheless, the effort is worth it. Having work friends is a worthwhile experience that need not bar any sort of worker from entry. Online colleagues can even become in-person work friends –or even better, in-person friends.