Overcoming the loneliness of working from home – Dr. Samadi’s tips

One of the biggest impacts of the pandemic has been the transformation of America’s workplace. If you worked in an office building before coronavirus hit, there’s a very good chance you’re now working from home remotely…and it looks like you may continue to work remotely indefinitely.  According to a Pew Research Center survey, 71% of workers working from home all or most of the time says their job responsibilities can mainly be done from home and companies are realizing that huge office buildings spending large sums of money for rent and other expenses may not be worth returning to. For some stay-at-home workers, it’s been an easy transition and they look forward to continuing working from home.

The negative effects of working from home

But home-based employment can get lonely. Working at home does have its perks but loneliness is not one of them. Up to 19% of remote workers report loneliness as their number one problem in keeping motivated working from home. Isolation when working remotely can be problematic.  Maybe you’re an empty nester or already live alone. Now, you’re spending inordinate amounts of time at home, something you may not have done before the pandemic.

Feelings of isolation, separation from others, or questioning your self-worth, can be possible symptoms of loneliness.  If the problem has become chronic, your health may suffer in many ways. Loneliness can lead to effect of stress driving up cortisol levels in the body. High circulating levels of the hormone cortisol can lead to inflammation, excess weight gain, insulin resistance, and difficulty concentrating.

Humans are social creatures by nature and when socially isolated, it may set you up for a variety of physical and mental ailments including the following:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Depression
  • Sleep apnea
  • High blood pressure
  • Substance abuse
  • Mental health and emotional problems

Fighting off work from home loneliness

Working remotely from home can and does get lonely but it doesn’t have to. Here are ways to fight off the isolation of working from home:

  • Have boundaries

Before the pandemic, you got up, got ready for work, left your home for hours, and then returned later in the day.  There was a clear boundary between home life and your work life. But now working remotely, those boundaries have been blurred. Instead of concentrating fully on a work project like you used to, you may be distracted by the huge pile of laundry or tempted to clean out that messy desk drawer while working.

Take time to have a clear start to your workday and a firm time when it ends. Every one of us needs firm boundaries when working from home; otherwise, you may continue to work well into the night.  Shutting off your work computer and physically leaving your workspace at home is saying, “I’m done for the day.” Plan time for socializing with others after work; make coffee dates, meet at a park to chat, exercise after work with a friend or network with co-workers meeting for a lunch date or after-work mixer.

  • Work away from home at least once a week

Spending all your work hour time at home will feel very isolating and will get old fast. At least once a week, work away from home. The flexibility of remote work allows you to take your work with you.  Get out of the house and go to the library or local coffee shop. Some companies are allowing a certain number of employees to come to their physical work office a few days a week to be near other co-workers.

Having a change of scenery keeps your work attitude and motivation fresh and something to look forward to. It’s good to switch things up and to make connections with others.

  • Refrain from working from your bedroom

Where you choose to work remotely in your home matters – it might be your living room, office space, or maybe the kitchen. But the one-room not to choose for remote work is your bedroom. Otherwise, you will be spending practically the entire day in this same room without little contact with others.  Bedrooms are for sleeping and sexual activity, not as a workspace.

  • Take regular phone free or computer free breaks

Avoid becoming a zombie by staring hours on end into your computer or looking at your phone. Set a timer and every 45 to 60 minutes, get up and stretch, drink water, walk around outside, do jumping jacks, play with your dog or anything that breaks up time and monotony. And please, take your lunch break away from your computer screen or phone. If the weather’s nice, sit outside and eat or go to a nearby park.

  • Join a group fitness class

Nothing is more powerful for your brain, emotional health, and productivity than working out. Science backs this up so instead of exercising alone, take a group fitness class.  Try dancing, yoga, CrossFit, or whatever you like.  It’s a great way to meet people in your community and you’ll feel better both mentally and physically.

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