Many employees are now being forced to work from home and physically isolate themselves from friends and colleagues, this has resulted in loneliness for many. However according to new research from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) there are ways to stop us from feeling so lonely.
Working from home can make us more efficient. But it’s the face-to-face interactions and opportunities to give, support and help our colleagues or clients that make our work meaningful.
Here, PhD candidate Hodar Lam, Professor Steffen Giessner and Dr Meir Shemla, have provided four tips that can help to prevent loneliness while working from home:
Engage in self-disclosure – Sharing your feelings and information is a powerful way to maintaining relationships at work. The more you share with your colleagues and your supervisors – for example talking about your worries about the current situation – the more likely you will feel connected and authentic. But be careful; sharing information that disrupts the way others have usually seen you may backfire. Appropriate, ethical disclosure is key.
Create meaning in virtual work – Are you starting to feel bored by working on tasks in front of the computer? By focusing on the needs and feelings of others, you can add meaning to your work relationships and pay less attention to thoughts and emotions that trigger loneliness. You can reach out to your colleagues, give some support or advice, and say thank you to those who have been nice and helpful to you at work. Ask yourself and your colleagues why they do the work they do. This way you can create meaning. Realise and appreciate that you are doing important work – whether it’s from home or the office.
Reminisce about the good old times – Studies have found that recollecting the positive incidents helps reduce loneliness. The next time you feel lonely working from home, try recalling a happy outing with your colleagues or eat something you might eat in the office canteen – our brains automatically associate comfort food with meaningful relationships. You may also share these “old” stories and pictures with your colleagues on socialising platforms – for the sake of nostalgia.
Know what your tasks are – At home, we are easily distracted. And if you are uncertain about your role in your team, you may feel helpless when isolated in remote working conditions. In other words, you need to know what your tasks are and how they contribute to your teamwork. If you are feeling uncertain about your tasks, duties, and responsibilities right now, ask your supervisor to clarify your role in the current working conditions.
“When we work remotely for a long period of time, we lose the vast majority of our spontaneous interactions with others. Non-verbal information from virtual work interactions is limited. For example, we can’t see a friendly smile or a worrying frown through email exchanges and instant messaging. These signals, provide strong socio-emotional values to keep us feel connected. In addition, the COVID-19 crisis requires us to keep any social face-to-face contact to the minimum. So, not surprisingly, feeling lonely at home is now more likely. No one is an island. It is normal to feel lonely while working from home, as loneliness is a signal reminding us to stay connected. And we can stay connected, be it at the office or online,” says Professor Steffen Giessner.