Working from home has all kinds of benefits. You cut out your daily commute, which saves you money on transportation costs and allows you to spend more time with your family. Plus, you’re largely able to set your own hours, which gives you the freedom to schedule your day in a way that works for you, which naturally helps minimize stress. Unfortunately, one of the major downsides of being a home-based employee is feeling lonely and isolated — not just from your company and co-workers, but also from the world around you.
Many companies allow you the flexibility to come into the office part-time, but for freelancers, entrepreneurs, and employees whose companies are entirely remote, that may not be a possibility. However, there are several great ways to keep feelings of isolation at bay, even when leaving the house isn’t a convenient option.
Move Your Home Office
While having a dedicated home office is important for your productivity and work-life balance, changing up where you spend your workday can be a refreshing change of pace that helps you feel less caged in. Set aside one day a week to work in a different area, or pick up and move as soon as you start feeling anxious. If you have a partner, roommate, or kids at home who might distract you if you relocate to another room, consider working outside. Being outdoors has proven mental health benefits, and there’s no better way to free yourself from feelings of isolation than to escape into nature.
Recruit a Virtual Co-worker
If there are others in your company working remotely, setting up times to work together online via Skype, Zoom, or even by phone can help you feel more connected to your co-worker and your overall organization. Even solo projects that don’t require a collaborator can feel more fulfilling if you work through them while on speakerphone with a peer.
Mentor an Up-and-comer
Similarly, taking someone under your wing will not only be a wonderful way to help someone breaking into your industry or looking to move up in it, it can also provide a sense of accomplishment you may not get from working on your own full time. Talk to your boss about joining (or starting) a mentorship program within your company, or check out opportunities through local high schools and colleges.
Adopt a Pet
Dogs, cats, and other critters aren’t your typical co-worker, but they are a sure way to reduce your loneliness both on and off the clock. If you don’t have the energy to train a young pet, bringing home an animal that’s at least a year old will provide you with the company you crave, but won’t require an investment in time (and patience) in house breaking, leash training, or litter box learning.
Take Socialization Breaks
Rather than spend your lunch hour alone, take the time to catch up with a friend or family member on the phone. This is akin to meeting up for a coffee at a local cafe or sharing a meal with a co-worker in the breakroom, and can significantly take the edge off an otherwise lonely day.
Join an Online Group
No matter if you find an online community comprised of people in your industry or a general group of remote employees across multiple lines of work, having people to turn to who can relate to your role in one form or another will help make your world a little cozier. Not only will you have the opportunity to create friendships, you may also be able to build your business.
Get Out of the House
If you’re able to, getting out of the house and setting up shop at a friend’s house, co-working space, or even your local coffee house can help reduce feelings of isolation. Even if you go to a public space without a work buddy, being around other people and hearing the hustle and bustle of activity may help you feel less lonely.
Communicate with Your Employer About Your Needs
It’s in your manager’s (and your entire organization’s) best interest for you to feel your best. After all, an unhappy employee is less likely to feel motivated to do their best work. If there is something your employer can do to help you, let them know. Does regular feedback on projects you’ve turned in help you feel more connected to your supervisor and your company? Would monthly phone-based meetings foster more meaningful relationships with your co-workers? Will a monthly stipend to cover the expense of a co-working space reduce your loneliness? Whatever it is you need, reach out to your manager to see how your company can accommodate you.
Be sure to practice self-care at home both on and off the clock. If you’re feeling tense from a rough day and don’t have anyone to vent to, taking a few minutes to stretch your neck, shoulders, or other tight spots can make a world of difference. If exercise helps provide you with a mental escape, block off some time to go for a run or follow a workout video on YouTube. Don’t forget about prioritizing basic self-care practices, either — eating a nutritious diet, making time to pursue a beloved hobby, and getting a full night of sleep are all essential wellness habits you shouldn’t neglect.
Work with a Mental Health Professional
If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed with feelings of isolation even after trying to ease them, there may be a bigger mental health issue at play, such as depression or generalized anxiety disorder. You don’t have to suffer. Reaching out to a mental health specialist, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor, is a great first step to make permanent strides in improving your overall wellness. They may suggest medication, talk therapy, or a combination of both to help you begin to feel better.
Finding ways to be social, practicing fundamental self-care habits, and reaching out for professional help when you’re feeling overwhelmed are all healthy coping tools for dealing with feelings of isolation as a home-based employee. Working from home is a struggle for most remote employees at one point or another, so if you’re new to this arrangement, try to give it some time, and never hesitate to reach out to your supervisor, peers, and family and friends to help you foster and build the social connections that will help you stay emotionally well.