It probably comes as no surprise that loneliness is one of the biggest struggles when working remotely.
Especially during a time of social distancing and self-isolation, loneliness can really creep in. So how can you and your team help combat this, along with the other unique struggles of working remotely?
In this article, we’ll look at some research on loneliness in the world of remote work as well as what you can do as a team leader and company to fight it off!
Obstacles of Remote Work
According to Buffer’s 2018 State of Remote Work, remote workers have some unique struggles to work through. Loneliness (21%), collaborating and/or communicating (21%) and distractions at home (16%) are the biggest struggles for remote workers.
So how can we combat them? Let’s take a look.
Loneliness, Collaboration & Communication
When it comes to loneliness, Gallup research states it’s important that managers know the difference between loneliness and isolation. Whereas loneliness is an emotional response to a lack of connection, isolation is structural and related to access—or lack thereof. For example, a lonely person can feel just as lonely in a crowd or alone at home, whereas an isolated person “can’t get the materials or information they need, they think their achievements or development are ignored, they feel cut off from the business”. Loneliness can contribute to isolation and isolation can contribute to loneliness, but team leaders can address both by talking with their employees about the issues that cause them.
Although being alone is not the only cause of loneliness, it can be a significant contributor. It’s also a dangerous and growing epidemic that scientists are taking seriously. In order to help suppress these feelings, it’s important to encourage your team members to activate their social networks.
The Lancet’s report “The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence” found that “activating your social network, albeit remotely, is not just a key priority, but an inability to do so is associated not just with immediate anxiety, but longer-term distress.”
Solutions You Can Implement
For your part, you can begin by pairing up remote workers to help combat loneliness while improving collaboration and communication between team members. Creating and encouraging employees to become involved with a community and build new relationships is essential in times like these.
There is evidence to suggest that support groups specifically for people who were quarantined at home during disease outbreaks can be helpful. One study found that having such a group and feeling connected to others who had been through the same situation could be a validating, empowering experience and can provide people with the support they might find they are not receiving from other people.
One great way to build this type of community is with a digital mentoring program. If you’ve been on the fence about implementing one at your company up to this point, now’s the time to start! Given the current circumstances, a virtual mentoring program like Mentorloop can not only help team members learn from one another and grow together, it can connect them at a time when social interaction is at a minimum.
Virtual mentoring programs offer a plethora of benefits. Your business will be able to provide mentoring access to anyone, anytime, even if a team member lives in a remote location—someone who might not otherwise have access to a mentor. There’s also the flexibility that digital mentoring programs provide; there’s no travel time associated with meeting up, and mentor and mentee can keep in touch even when away and/or no longer in their usual workplace (like now!). What’s more, both mentoring partners can come to one another when they’re willing, ready, and able to engage in a meaningful, productive conversation.
Learn how a Mentorloop Mentoring or Remote-focussed Program can keep your people connected, expand their at-work social network beyond their team, ensure they’re setting goals, and that they’re supported to actually achieve those goals!