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Be sincere: you miss your folks

September
29, 2020

7 min read

The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur's contributors are their own.

This article was written by Mitchell Terpstra, a member of Entrepreneur NEXT supported by the Assemble Content team. Entrepreneur NEXT is our Expert Solutions division that leads the future of the work and skills-based economy. If you're struggling to find, review, and hire the right experts for your business, Entrepreneur NEXT is a platform that allows you to hire the experts you need, exactly when you need them. From business to marketing, sales, design, finance to technology, we have the top three experts ready to work for you.

Sure, working from home (WFH) has its advantages: increased flexibility, no commuting with resulting savings in the cost of gasoline or public transport, and much more meetings that could be emails, will eventually be the emails we've always wanted.

At the same time, working remotely can feel too remote – almost like being stranded on a desert island.

No wonder, then, that in a number of studies on the wellbeing of remote workers, loneliness was a major reason remote workers wanted to return to the company's office.

In Western culture in particular, our professions are synonymous with how we identify with ourselves. Even if this overly importance is attached to only one aspect of our life, we still do not realize how important these other people in our job are to our mental and emotional well-being. Love her or hate her, your co-workers do you a great service in helping you meet one of your basic human needs: social interaction.

Now that many have been working from home for several months, the sting of loneliness that results from isolation is becoming more and more palpable. Loneliness can affect your job performance and, what is worse, be linked to early mortality.

Dealing with this fresh brand of loneliness just requires a proactive strategy where there was little to nothing before. Here are tactics you can use to improve your jobless social life.

Leave your home

Sounds easy right? Lockdown orders in various locations turned many of us into de facto shut-ins, only occasionally making our way to the grocery store. On a large scale, human movement slowed significantly in 2020. As just one indicator, US public transportation usage fell 50 percent in April. For some, these temporary changes have become a new habit in daily life.

While it's a boon to the environment, being confined to your home can be a broke for your emotional wellbeing as casual social encounters and new relationships become impossible. Look for safe, socially distant activities to make up for the isolation of the WFH.

Whether you're just strolling around your neighborhood, wandering through a nearby nature reserve, or running errands, leaving your home provides the opportunity for informal social encounters. Add to this the psychological impulses of light movement and nature, and you immediately get mental improvement.

You could go a step further by starting a new hobby with a like-minded friend. What have you always wanted to learn? Find someone to take responsibility and learn how to do it together – baking sourdough, gardening, a foreign language, those “wine and watercolor” painting evenings, whatever the reason to share time with someone else.

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Apply at least one of your meal times to being social.

Make the most of your lunch break (or whatever meal you prefer). Reserve a meal time each day of the week to meet family members, close friends, or a favorite colleague over dinner.

You might have breakfast or coffee together before the work day starts. Or it can be a zoom chat, a Facetime session or just the phone on the speaker while you have your respective lunch in your respective home.

If your loved ones are adjusting to WFH life as well, they are likely in the same boat as you and hungry for social interaction. And meal time is the best time to socialize because if you think about it, meals were the original social platform.

Opt for real connection through social media.

When you talk about social media, limit your time there.

As you scroll through your Facebook timeline or Instagram feed, you can keep track of your friends' activities – and make them appear to be in touch with others. In reality, this is a cheap substitute and often only adds to feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression.

Set up a COVID working cohort.

If the WFH grind feels particularly isolating to you and you have extra space in your home, consider putting together your own WFH team of local friends to share the same experience. Although you work in a variety of professions, being able to share ideas, discuss tedious clients, or celebrate small victories throughout the day can mimic the kind of social interaction you're used to from coworkers.

If converting your home into some kind of WFH open office concept is not possible, consider renting a desk in a common room or even set up a shop in a library or coffee shop once or twice a week. For some, the prospect of being seen by others can be motivating and increase your productivity. If you choose to go this route, be sure to practice social distancing and wear a mask.

Adopt a pet.

It is not for nothing that the number of dog-friendly jobs has almost doubled in recent years. The presence of dogs, like that of many pets, can decrease feelings of stress, loneliness, anxiety, and depression, not to mention more conversation between staff and more exercise in the pet owner's life.

If you've ever considered getting a pet, there's no better time to get through it. Before the WFH, you bring a new dog to your home and on Monday morning you may have had to leave him alone. Remote working gives you the opportunity to better take on a new pet in your household.

And if you adopt a new pet during COVID, you'll be in good company: pet adoption has grown significantly since the pandemic started, but that doesn't mean your new best friend isn't out there waiting.

Dear managers, please check your WFH staff.

After all, it is important that managers, supervisors and other team leaders regularly check in these employees under their leadership – not just because loneliness can negatively affect work performance. It is easy for a newly remote employee to feel affected by the dramatic change in work life and suddenly feel on the edge of the company's mission.

Get a heart rate check on the wellbeing of your individual team member by quickly doing informal check-ins via video conference or phone call, or by organizing a zoom meeting during the event for work that is supposed to be social, such as a meeting at work. B. a Zoom Happy Hour what you can judge if someone does not adapt well to the "new work-life normal".

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