Although spending time alone is healthy, it doesn’t always feel like it when you work from home.
Studies show that loneliness and isolation can threaten our health and wellbeing to the same degree as cigarettes, obesity, and excess alcohol. They also found that feelings of loneliness trigger activity in the same areas of the brain associated with physical pain.
Spending time alone is healthy, but it doesn’t always feel like it when you work from home.
Yet, when we talk about working from home, all the positive commentary from family and friends comes pouring in.
“Wish I could work in my pajamas.”
“You get to sleep in and set your own work schedule? Where do I sign up?”
But what’s never taken into account are the cons of working from home: the heavy responsibility of setting a schedule and sticking to it, staying accountable for your time, doing your taxes correctly – and most of all – loneliness.
Like any job, working from home has its negatives on top of its positives. But for some reason, those negatives are rarely talked about.
If you’re the only one in your family or circle of friends who works from the comfort of your own workspace, it’s not likely those around you will understand the depth of isolation you experience.
It’s mental work going through day after day having little to no interaction with humans. Even those of us who are introverted must admit that the lack of human interaction does something to your brain and messes with sleeping patterns and eating patterns.
That’s why it’s important to do something about loneliness the second we notice it. Perhaps we don’t want to admit it, but we need contact with other people to stay sane. We can’t talk to ourselves – our or pets – forever. If we could, more people would work from home.
Many of us would rather brush off the feeling of isolation than face it, but that’s simply unhealthy. To admit it is to push yourself closer to feeling fulfilled even when the room is empty.
So, here are 10 things you can try when you feel like you’re in a lonely rut while working from home.
1. Watch Youtube Videos Where the Person Is Speaking to You Directly
I like to write when it’s completely quiet (eerie, I know). Then, when it’s time for a break, I put YouTube on my TV.
But not just any YouTube videos. I’m talking about the ones where the person is speaking directly to the camera as if they’re sharing a 1-on-1 conversation with their viewers. The YouTuber talks to you like you’re a close friend, and the conversation is super casual.
Videos like these help me feel like I’m not as isolated as I think. Here’s a person talking to me through the camera having a normal conversation on topics I enjoy.
For example, I really like videos centered around makeup because of the upbeat attitude YouTubers in that niche have. It’s part of their brand, so any video on makeup I click is guaranteed to be cheery and upbeat. It brightens my mood and leaves me feeling rejuvenated to get back to work.
If you’re looking for something more motivational to get you in the mood to work productively, look into some TED talks. There are dozens of videos about motivation, work ethic, and success that will help frame your mindset when it comes to working. And, the speakers speak directly to the audience, so it helps to envision you’re right there with them.
You can even get your learning on YouTube for marketing, tech and more.
2. Listen to Podcasts about Topics You Find Interesting
If you don’t care too much to look at someone talking to you, why not try a podcast?
My favorite app to use for this is RadioPublic, but there are tons of options as podcasts are on the rise. Some others I like are Overcast and Stitcher. All are free unless you opt for premium upgrades.
Use podcasts to listen to topics you like or find interesting – something that can be used as a destresser.
We’re busy, and podcasts allow multitasking to get more done in less time.
3. Reach out on Social Media to Other Freelancers
This one’s a little scary for those of us who are socially awkward, but this is extremely beneficial.
There are just too many questions that come up when working from home that even Google can’t find the answer to. This is one of the reasons why it’s important to reach out to others who work from home.
This isn’t to say you pop into their inbox one day with 100 questions lined up when they have no clue you exist in the first place. It just means when you need a little help, or some encouragement, someone will be there for you who actually understands what you’re going through.
I joined multiple Facebook groups for solopreneurs and businesswomen, and also followed similar accounts on Twitter and Pinterest. I actively follow and engage with users who also freelance and write for businesses and blogs. Through these platforms, I have learned more about freelance writing, how to set rates for clients, effective cold pitching, and so much more.
The point is, I never would’ve had access to this wealth of information if I didn’t put myself out there and actively engage in these online communities.
There’s nothing worse than trying to explain to a friend how lonely it is to work from home only to have them not understand. That’s why networking and connecting with others in the same boat as you will aid you immensely.
4. Switch up Your Workspace
What do I do when I’m sick of staring at the huge paper calendar in front of my desk? And the wall? And my plants?
I leave the house.
There are only so many consecutive days I can spend being in the same at-home work environment with no one but my cat to keep me company. On these days, I pack up my laptop and hit the library, coffee shop, or bookstore. The library is my personal favorite.
If working from home’s got you feeling in a funk, switch up your workspace. Take a break from the same setting you see every single day and go somewhere new. I even like to go to the forest preserve 5 minutes from my house, connect my laptop to my phone’s personal hotspot, and enjoy internet until my computer dies on me.
5. Get Away from Your Workspace in Intervals
It used to be ingrained in my head that I needed to take as few breaks as possible if I wanted a consistent workflow.
I finally figured out why: because I felt so isolated, the more I focused on nothing but my work, the less I noticed how lonely I was. Denying that loneliness? Absurd.
There’s no problem with being dedicated to your business so long as you’re taking care of yourself.
To stay on schedule, some remote workers use the Pomodoro technique. You work for about 25 minutes, take a short break, then work for another 25 minutes, take a break, and so on. I can work for up to an hour without feeling antsy, so I do that and then take a 10 minute break in between working sessions.
Some other tools to use for time management are:
When the timer is up, get out of your seat. Do not continue working. Your mind needs fun and play to stay fresh and creative. Sitting in your chair staring at your screen for three consecutive hours is not going to do that for you. If anything, it will keep you in a that miserable, lonely funk.
In my experience, the fewer breaks I take, the more irritable I feel, and the more time I have to dwell on being isolated from other human beings.
Even if your breaks are as simple as grabbing an apple while checking your social media, this is enough to get out of your work mindset and go back feeling refreshed.
6. Video Chat with a Friend
Yes, a friend. No, not a client.
I’d even argue a phone call could do the trick, but seeing someone on the other end speaking to you makes it feel like they’re right there with you.
There are people out there who’d rather die than video chat, even if it’s with a friend, but if you’re not one of those people, try it.
You can use Skype, Google Hangouts, Facetime if you have an iPhone, and many other free platforms. If you have friends across the globe and you like to work well into the night (or super early in the morning), even better!
Don’t underestimate what a face-to-face chat can do for your lonely itch. We don’t always have the opportunity to hang out in person, so this resource is a handy tool when you want to talk to someone.
7. Join a Collaborative Workspace
There are different ways to set up or join a collaborative work environment.
You don’t need to know anyone to join, as there are paid plans for those who are serious about a coworking space.
I don’t know anyone in my personal life who works from home on a full-time basis. So what I do instead is hit up friends who need to study or get work done from their own laptop, find a coffee shop or library, and then meet up and work on our own separate projects.
Maybe it sounds a little odd. After all, you won’t be working on the same thing as the person next to you, so talking about work might be foreign to you both.
Or, it might be wonderful.
I love to work alongside others when they are just as in tune and focused on their work as I am. It puts us all in a productive, motivated mood.
Doing so in an environment that encourages study is a plus, so we’re never at each other’s homes or personal spaces. It’s always done in public as this stimulates our creative juices more so than sitting on the couch or in the kitchen.
If you’re willing to shell out some cash for a beautiful coworking space, Google “your town + coworking spaces” and see what comes up. You might be surprised about what resources are in your area.
In the end, it’s all about creating a coworking space that’s suitable for you – free or not. The goal here is to end the crippling loneliness of working alone.
8. Don’t Mix Work and Play
Have you ever eaten lunch in front of your computer? Had a family day and brought your laptop with just in case you could squeeze in some work time? (You couldn’t.)
When it’s time to relax, do just that. Relax. Stay away from bright, shiny screens. Neglect your phone for an hour or three. Those texts can wait. Twitter can wait. Your mental health cannot.
So when it’s time to work, work. But when it’s time to play, be just as diligent. Don’t feel like just because you have internet access you’re obliged to answer client emails, update your website, or finish a project. You’ll get that done in your work time slots.
For now, enjoy your free time.
Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.
This probably sounds cliche and regurgitated, but simple meditation has taken me a long way.
You don’t have to be a meditation guru to participate. All you need is a quiet space with no distractions, good posture, and simple in-and-out breathing motions.
Doing this for as little as 5 minutes in the morning makes all the difference. It calms your mind, puts you in balance, decreases stress, and gets you ready for the day ahead.
Instead of focusing on being alone throughout your workday, you can clear your head for better, more productive thoughts like:
What you’re looking forward to in your business or personal life
Goals you’re eager and excited to accomplish
Why you’re grateful for the opportunity to work from home
By shifting the focus of your intentions and your thoughts, you start to see things from a different perspective. I could moan and groan all day about the lack of human interaction I get (that I, ironically, used to pray for back in the day).
Instead, I remind myself that working from home is a privilege above all else and that there is someone out there who wishes they were in my shoes.
When I’m having a particularly lonely day, I tell myself this: Everything will be okay in the end. I might not feel it now, but I will very soon. Maybe it’s cheesy, but it always helps me feel better.
10. Schedule a Fun Night with Family or Friends
This could be a cute date night with your significant other, a chill night in drinking wine with your best friend, or a fun night out on the town with family.
Whatever you choose, doing this is crucial. When I feel especially lonely, spending even a few hours with someone I care about makes me feel fulfilled, cared about, and loved.
Sometimes all you need is quality time with people you love to feel less alone. Feeling stuck at home with work can do a number on you and play tricks on your mind. I’m willing to bet there are times you feel mega-obligated to work even when you’re not supposed to be.
This is toxic to your mental health. Don’t let yourself believe that time spent with loved ones is “time wasted” that could otherwise be spent making money. Pour value into your personal relationships and this will make you feel more fulfilled and surrounded by love.
Put It into Practice
Taking the steps towards coping with loneliness is easier said than done. The good news is that there are so many options out there to consider when you feel more isolated and cut off from the world than usual. It’s not easy to deal with, but it is 100% manageable. And you are not alone in the process.
What do you do to cure loneliness when working from home?