Friday, 08 November 2019 // from Xenia Stepanow

The number of people who work full-time remotely continues to grow rapidly. It’s already been shown that people who work from home tend to be more productive. While solitude and a distraction-free environment can be immensely helpful for productivity, isolation can in fact quickly become its own distraction.

If you live alone, you may go an entire day without seeing or speaking to another person. If you live with others, you may find yourself withdrawing to a closed workspace.

Of course, some degree of isolation is to be expected when you start working remotely, but fortunately there are some easy and specific steps that you can take to avoid the pitfalls that often come with working from home.

Don’t underestimate the power of simple interactions

Studies have shown, that the most important ingredient to overall happiness is how we connect with others. While daily interactions with “strong ties” (like family members or a significant other) do have the greatest correlation with overall happiness, even your interactions with “weak ties” such as coworkers, the barista at your local coffee shop, and acquaintances can also help. When working from home these “weak ties” are especially difficult to establish but not impossible! For example,  leaving your appartment and sitting in a nice café during lunch time, interacting with the staff and maybe even planning some after work catch ups with your friends.

Use the internet wisely

Be cautious when you find yourself spending your break time mindlessly scrolling through social media. While the internet and certain social media websites play an important role in keeping people connected, studies have shown that some types of social media use can actually make us more lonely. Rather than passively “liking” posts as you scroll, try using the internet in a more thoughtful and personal way. Sending a proper e-mail update to an old friend, making a photo collage or sending an e-card are some ways to use the internet to connect with those strong ties. On the other hand, try taking screen-free breaks! You may be surprised how much time you actually spend looking at a screen when you work from home. Just leaving the house even for a short walk, and actually physically moving yourself away from the internet, can be very helpful.

Plan ahead and make plans outside of work

It is even more important to put in some extra effort to build and maintain relationships when you work from home. You don’t have your colleagues around to interact and joke around with, or go for a happy hour drink after work, so you need to put in some extra work to maintain connections. As mentioned before, try planning ahead for lunch or dinner with a friend, and make sure you both mark it on your calendar and stick to your plans. Another great strategy to try is to join group fitness classes. Not only will your body thank you, you will have a chance to connect with people in your community and maybe even build new friendships!

Encourage your colleagues to use a chat tool

If you are part of a team, make sure to not just keep in touch with your colleagues via e-mail. Agree to all use a chat tool that enables you to create a group chat, which will help you to communicate on a more informal and efficient level. A chat tool that is fun to use, where you can send photos and smileys, will help you to connect better with your coworkers despite working far from each other. And when texting someone, first ask how they are doing or how their weekend was, just as you would do in a conversation at the café bar.

Working from home certainly doesn’t have to be isolating or lonely. You can easily take a few preventive steps to help reduce your risk of depression and isolation, inorder to not only avoid having a burnout but also to help you in staying connected to the people around you.

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