When we first started working from home all those months ago, everything felt a bit surreal.
Against the backdrop of a global pandemic, we had to adapt to a whole new way of working overnight – Zoom meetings, virtual appointments and a heavy reliance on email became the ‘new normal’ for many of us. And while getting used to everything was a challenge in itself, the benefits of working from home – such as not having to commute and being able to wear loungewear 24/7 – seemed to greatly outweigh the negatives.
However, as time has gone on, the positives we enjoyed during those first couple of weeks have been increasingly overshadowed. On top of the inevitable technological mishaps and communication problems with colleagues, we quickly realised that concentrating during a global pandemic wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be. And then, on top of all that, there was the loneliness.
I, for one, hadn’t realised quite how much energy I get from being in the office around my colleagues. Despite our daily video meetings, Slack messages and odd WhatsApp conversations, not being able to see my colleagues in a physical sense has been particularly difficult.
Not only have I felt socially isolated (moving home to live with my parents during lockdown means I haven’t been able to see any non-work friends, either), but I’ve also found it harder to get motivated without other people around me.
I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. According to new research by UK job board Totaljobs, almost half (46%) of UK workers have experienced loneliness while working from home, with women and younger workers (those aged 18-38) most likely to be affected; among younger workers, 74% said they had struggled with the social isolation of remote working.
And that loneliness is having a much wider impact than you might think. 70% of the workers surveyed by Totaljobs said the loneliness they had experienced had had a negative impact on their wellbeing; among those 70%, two fifths said it had had a detrimental impact on their sleeping habits, and 37% said it had negatively impacted their stress levels.
But despite so many of us experiencing loneliness while working from home, it’s still something that we struggle to talk about (only one in 10 of the workers who felt lonely have wanted to bring up the topic with their colleagues, according to the research). And when talking about loneliness is one of the most effective ways to alleviate those feelings, the fact that we don’t feel comfortable sharing our experiences is a problem.
As the UK’s loneliness minister Baroness Diana Barran previously told Stylist: “Very often people think that it’s quite an unusual thing. They think that it’s their fault, that somehow they’re inadequate, and that’s why they feel lonely.
“Of course we know that actually, and particularly at the moment in the current situation, many, many people experience loneliness. It’s an entirely natural thing to feel. And actually, we also know that just talking to somebody else about it can help relieve your loneliness.”
While talking about how we’re feeling isn’t always easy, opening up about our experiences while working from home is a great way to alleviate those feelings and start a conversation which could help others around you, too.
Coping with loneliness
If you’re feeling lonely at the moment, it’s important to understand that you’re not alone. The coronavirus pandemic has left many people feeling isolated – but reaching out and talking about how you’re feeling can make a difference. To find out more about coping with loneliness during this time, you can check out these three articles:
- Feeling lonely during lockdown? You need to read this
- “Am I the only one who feels more isolated now that lockdown is lifting?”
- Feeling lonely? Here’s how to tell when you’re struggling (and what to do about it)
For more information on coping with loneliness and taking care of your mental health, including organisations that might be able help, you can check out the NHS loneliness pages or visit the Mind website.
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