Almost overnight, 49% of the UK population began working from home (1) and we’re still figuring it out to say the least. Whilst some of us love the extra time we have (no more evenings taken up with washing and cleaning), many are experiencing increased feelings of loneliness as we spend our days communicating virtually, missing the routines and structure we under-appreciated at the time.
What once seemed like the dream now feels endless as we head into a dark winter. It’s becoming more important than ever to feel connected, and keep our social lives moving outside of the daily grind. Whether you live alone, in a shared household or with family – we’re all learning to adapt to this new way of working and each situation comes with its own challenges.
Remote working was once reserved for the few, and thus research is limited as to the long-term impacts and ways in which we can help ourselves day to day. Some experts even say the way we build houses in the future will be impacted by these experiences already, with office spaces in the home becoming the standard, and notably less of our towns and cities taken up with fluorescently lit towers.
Until that time, we must adapt our lives and households to retain balance between our working and social lives, as the lines become more blurred than ever. Of course, experiences differ from workplace to workplace - but we’ve found some tips to help you along the way. Please always follow the up to date government guidelines.
Maximise your newly found flexible schedule
We actually have more time to socialise than ever. Get out for a walk, grab a (distanced) coffee with a friend or neighbour, make a call to a friend or sort out a utility bill you’ve been dreading. Any social interaction will help, so use your loneliness as an opportunity to chat to people you normally wouldn’t have a chat with - in shops, cafes, wherever you are – just get away from the laptop.
Make plans after work
Treat it like a normal working day and treat your leisure hours as just that. However you spend your free time, make it enjoyable! There’s no escaping the fact that we are limited at the moment, but again, making plans is essential to overcoming feelings of loneliness, and they don’t have to be big.
Get a pet
OK, it’s not possible for everyone. But the science is there – having a pet, especially a dog or a cat, decreases loneliness and fulfils a basic human need to touch. Companionship can prevent illness and nothing beats loneliness like a wagging tail at the end of the working day. If you can’t own your own, then consider joining a community such as Borrow My Doggy where you can walk a dog after work, and help someone else at the same time! Winner winner.
Go to exercise classes
There’s hundreds of them out there both online and in person. Classes help to build structure into your day, away from work - and during lockdown we saw the birth of many ‘live’ online classes too which make you feel like you are part of a community. Showing up for a class at a certain time will not only help with adding structure to your day, but all the obvious physical and mental health benefits too - which will be more important than ever during these long winter months.
Check in with your colleagues
It’s highly likely that there are people in your work community experiencing feelings of loneliness too. Talking to colleagues, with shared experience, can be a relief in itself. Why not schedule regular catch ups and help facilitate it for others too if you feel it’s beneficial for you? A mutual appreciation for the difficulties of working from home, related to your job specifically, is an important way to combat feelings of isolation.
Find a new community to focus on outside of work
Book clubs, language classes, group therapy – whatever you want! There’s never been more you can learn from the comfort of your own home. If you’re able to leave the house and happy to meet up with people face to face, consider a platform such as MeetUp where you can search for groups in your local area catered specifically to your interests, or the Good Gym – a network of joggers who do good in their communities, ticking your daily exercise off for the day too. If you're based in Bristol - why not volunteer with Marmalade Trust! We'd love to hear from you.
Consider working out of the house a couple times a week
OK - well this doesn't apply now that we're back in lockdown... But when it remember this for when it's safe to leave home again!
Depends on your role, but once or twice a week consider working in a co-working space, café or even now a pub. Some of them are offering up ‘pub desks’ – as a way to help increase revenue during the day. Nowhere was built for socialising like the great British pub. Getting out of the house and into an environment where you can just be around other people will decrease feelings of loneliness and help you to feel more connected to the people and communities around you. You could even ask a colleague if they feel like doing the same thing!
By volunteer and Marmalade Trust supporter, Ellie Kynaston.