Loneliness and isolation are common challenges faced by remote workers. Minimizing feelings of isolation requires ongoing effort and attention to ensure productivity and job satisfaction is not negatively impacted.
Remote work and feelings of isolation refer to the social and emotional experiences of working remotely, while burnout is a psychological condition that can result from chronic workplace stress. While remote work and feelings of isolation can contribute to workplace stress, they are not the same as burnout. It’s important to address both the social and emotional experiences of working remotely and the factors that contribute to burnout in order to promote a healthy and productive work environment. For more details about burnout, read our article: Identifying and Avoiding Remote Work Burnout
Remote work and feelings of isolation are related to the social and emotional impact of working remotely. Remote workers may feel disconnected from their colleagues, miss out on social interactions, and struggle to establish a routine or boundaries between work and personal life. These factors can contribute to feelings of loneliness, isolation, and decreased job satisfaction.
Remote Isolation Research
One study conducted by researchers from the University of Sheffield found that loneliness among remote workers can have negative effects on mental health and job satisfaction (CIPD, 2021). Another study conducted by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley found that remote workers are more likely to experience isolation, which can lead to decreased productivity (Golden et al., 2019). Researchers from Harvard Business School found that remote workers are more likely to experience professional isolation and loneliness, which can lead to decreased job satisfaction and increased turnover (Casciaro & Lobo, 2018).
Signs & Signals
To recognize loneliness and isolation in remote work, some signs to look out for include:
- Decreased communication with coworkers or feeling disconnected from the team.
- Increased feelings of stress or anxiety.
- Difficulty concentrating or decreased productivity.
- Loss of motivation or enthusiasm for work.
- Increased feelings of sadness or loneliness.
If you or someone you know is experiencing loneliness and isolation in remote work, it’s important to reach out for support and take steps to address these challenges.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to take them seriously and take steps to address them. This may include talking to your manager, seeking support from colleagues or friends, or seeking professional help from a therapist, counselor, or medical doctor. It’s important to prioritize self-care and take steps to prevent feelings of loneliness or isolation before it becomes a more serious problem.
The feelings of isolation in remote workers can be caused by a variety of factors. Here are some common reasons:
Lack of social interaction
Remote workers may miss out on casual conversations, office banter, and other social interactions that can help them feel connected to their colleagues.
Remote workers may feel physically separated from their colleagues, which can exacerbate feelings of isolation.
Limited face-to-face communication
Remote workers may communicate primarily through email, chat, or video conferencing, which can feel less personal than in-person conversations.
Lack of structure
Without a structured work environment, remote workers may struggle to establish a routine or boundaries between work and personal life.
Absence of shared experiences
Remote workers may miss out on shared experiences, such as team lunches or company events, which can contribute to a sense of belonging and connection.
Remote workers may receive less feedback or recognition from their supervisors and colleagues, which can make them feel undervalued and disconnected.
These factors can contribute to feelings of isolation in remote workers, but it’s important to note that everyone’s experience is unique and may be influenced by additional factors.
Sustaining remote work and avoiding isolation requires ongoing effort and attention. Here are some tips to help you stay connected and engaged while working remotely:
Stay engaged in your work
Stay engaged and motivated by setting goals, tracking your progress, and celebrating your accomplishments. Look for opportunities to learn and develop new skills to stay engaged and challenged in your work.
Take the initiative to connect with your colleagues, ask for feedback, and seek out opportunities to collaborate on projects. Being proactive can help you stay engaged and connected while working remotely.
Join a remote work community
Join online communities or groups of other remote workers to connect with like-minded individuals and find support. By joining a remote work community, remote workers can build social connections, share experiences, find resources, and feel more engaged and motivated in their work, reducing feelings of isolation and disconnection.
Make sure to take regular breaks throughout the day to recharge. When we take breaks, we give ourselves a chance to step back from our work and reduce stress. Taking breaks can provide opportunities for remote workers to connect with colleagues through informal conversations or virtual social events. Breaks can also provide remote workers with a change of scenery and a chance to step away from their workspace. Taking breaks can also improve productivity by allowing remote workers to recharge and return to their work with renewed focus and energy, which can help workers feel more motivated and engaged in their work, reducing feelings of isolation and disconnection.
Set clear boundaries between work and personal life to avoid feeling overwhelmed and stressed. When remote workers set clear boundaries between work and personal life, they can reduce work-related stress and prevent it from spilling over into their personal lives. In remote work it is important to establish an expected time for work and an expected time for being off – try not to blur the lines. This can help remote workers feel more relaxed and present in their personal lives, reducing feelings of isolation and disconnection.
Take care of your mental and physical health by practicing self-care activities such as exercise, faith-based practices, and hobbies. By engaging in self-care activities, remote workers can promote overall well-being, encourage work-life balance, find a sense of purpose outside of work, and connect with others who share similar interests. These benefits can help remote workers feel less isolated and more engaged in their personal lives, reducing feelings of isolation and disconnection.
Create a comfortable workspace
Set up a dedicated workspace that is comfortable, ergonomic, and conducive to productivity. Consider adding personal touches such as photos or decorations to make your workspace feel more inviting. For more about this, read our article: How to Personalize Your Remote Workpace to Inspire
Stay connected with colleagues & boss
Make an effort to stay in touch with coworkers, whether it’s through regular check-ins or virtual coffee breaks. By staying connected with colleagues, remote workers can benefit from social support, collaboration opportunities, feedback and recognition from colleagues and supervisors, and a sense of belonging. The sense of belonging can help remote workers feel more connected and engaged in their work, reducing feelings of isolation and disconnection.
If you feel like you’re not receiving enough feedback or recognition, consider scheduling a meeting with your supervisor to discuss your concerns. Be specific about what you need, such as more frequent check-ins or specific metrics for measuring your performance.
Learning to identify feelings of isolation requires ongoing effort and attention to help remote workers feel more fulfilled and engaged, reducing feelings of loneliness and disconnection. Applying strategies such as staying engaged, joining remote work communities, taking breaks, setting boundaries, practicing self-care, creating a comfortable work space, and staying connected with colleagues can help remote workers feel less isolated and more engaged in their work, promoting a more positive and sustainable remote work experience.
For more training on being engaged as a remote worker, sign up for our Remote Professional Certification. In this certification track, you will learn more about factors that can enhance remote engagement efforts for remote workers.
Important: This post does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. IT is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WorkForceRemote.org site.
Casciaro, T., & Lobo, M. S. (2018). The downside of working from home. Harvard Business Review.
CIPD. (2021). Working from home: Assessing the impact on job quality and well-being.
Golden, T. D., Veiga, J. F., & Simsek, Z. (2019). Telecommuting’s differential impact on work-family conflict: Is there no place like home? Journal of Applied Psychology, 104(3), 531–551.