Freelance business is booming. More and more jobs are being outsourced to private contractors, and an increasing number of contracted employees are either asking or being asked to work remotely.
This trend certainly has its advantages. But it also comes with a serious downside that mustn’t be ignored.
While in the past, much of our social circle centered around the workplace, today we are having to adjust to this new social dynamic that remote work is creating.
Social media platforms are trying to capitalize on this phenomenon. But are they an effective alternative to workplace interaction?
A recent, and still ongoing, survey conducted by the health insurance company Cigna, reveals that loneliness has reached epidemic levels in America. This problem is especially prevalent in younger adults (between 18 and 22), but older adults aren’t fairing much better.
The survey also found a correlation between the amount of social media use and feelings of loneliness. While, that can be explained, in part, by the age range of social media users, that is only one of the factors.
The truth is that while there are certainly pros and cons to social media, it is a poor replacement for face-to-face contact, the kind of contact we are experiencing less and less of in our professional lives.
In order to combat this growing problem, the popular job seekers platform Lensa recently published a piece on how to fight loneliness when working from home. Other employment and healthcare professionals have also published articles on this important topic.
Here is an amalgamation of some of the tips and tools you need to be aware of:
The Importance of Routine
There is a direct correlation between the absence of a sense of purpose and feelings of loneliness.
In order to effectively fight the creeping, and often incapacitating, feeling of loneliness, we must imbue ourselves with purpose. By that, we don’t mean in a grand meaning of life kind of way, but more so on the simple, practical daily application of purpose.
Not only does adherence to a healthy routine help to increase productivity, but it also helps to give our daily life this sense of purpose and achievement.
- Set easily achievable daily goals
- Set aside blocks of time, no matter how minimal, to achieve those goals
- Develop this goal-achievement strategy into a daily routine
Be Wary of Over-reliance on Social Media
There are benefits to social media. Many platforms and websites have been developed that help us stay in touch or reach out to others. But as the previously mentioned studies indicate, there is a correlation between the overuse of social media and feelings of loneliness.
If your goal is to maintain contact with others (as it should be), it is important that you not consider your interactions on social media as proof that you are meeting this goal.
Use social media as a tool towards interaction–finding like-minded people in your vicinity; attending or organizing events–but social media is not the interaction itself.
Take Frequent Breaks Outside
Working from home should not be synonymous with staying cloistered at home. Take regular breaks from your work. Get some exercise. Go for regular walks in your neighborhood.
The simple act of physically moving through space increases your feeling of being a part of that space. This is hard-wired in our psyche. It is a vital part of the human experience.
When you walk around the block, you become an integral part of that block. When you pass an apartment building, even if you don’t cross any of its residents, you have become a part of that building’s history and, in consequence, part of the lives of the people that live in it.
When you go out for a walk, leave your phone at home. Take some time to be disconnected from your devices and get connected with your physical surroundings. If you do this, and if these walks are incorporated into your daily schedule, you are simultaneously taking four important steps toward combatting loneliness:
- Sticking to a routine
- Avoiding over-reliance on social media
- Getting exercise
- Interacting with your outside, physical surroundings
Express Your Individuality
One of the strongest contributing factors toward feelings of loneliness is the sense of a loss of individuality. In a work environment, individuality is not always encouraged. When it is, it comes with parameters and limitations. This is the reality of working for a company or working to satisfy the demands of a client.
When you feel you are not able to express your individuality, you begin to feel lonely. When you begin to feel lonely, you feel a sense of your individuality slipping away. Soon, you are caught in a vicious cycle that can snowball quite quickly.
One of the benefits of social media is that, when used properly, it can give you a platform to express your individuality. Whether it’s in the creation of your profile or by expressing yourself through the originality of your posts, social media can be a good tool for self-expression.
Social media is by no means the only way to express your individuality. You express yourself in the simplest day-to-day activities: your dress or the words that you chose. The important thing is to express what makes you different.
Create on a continuous basis. You don’t need to paint the Mona Lisa. (If you did, that would be impressive, but it wouldn’t be an expression of your individuality.)
You do, however, need to produce physical manifestations of your individuality. This can be as simple as the meals you prepare or the way you’ve arranged your home and your workspace.
Fight loneliness by asserting yourself as an individual.
Please keep in mind, during the Covid pandemic and with the rise in remote work, feelings of loneliness are becoming a serious problem in our society and in the workplace. They contribute to a number of health issues, both mental and physical, and it is easy to fall into a vicious cycle. Incorporate some of these tools into your daily life and reach out.
Actively trying to connect with others is not only an important step toward fighting off feelings of loneliness you may be experiencing, but it is also a kind gesture. You are not the only one with these feelings. We are all in this together. And we will get through it together.