Remote work is
increasingly popular thanks to benefits like a higher quality of life, more productivity,
and more flexibility.
But it’s true that without the proper steps and support in place, remote workers can start to feel lonely.
Knowing potential loneliness is an issue that needs to be addressed for remote workers and teams, we’re breaking down what can be done on the employer side and what can be done on the employee side so that workers don’t feel lonely.
On the Employer Side
There are many things that can be done as am employer to add structure and encourage connection with your remote workers:
Encourage time for conversation that isn’t focused on work.
It’s not going to be every meeting, but it may make sense to have a regular meeting where people can connect and share what’s happening outside of work.
People are going to do this informally, but it’s also a good idea to “build this in” to how you work in some way. I’ve even heard of some companies dedicating a separate, regular meetup (such as a Friday lunch) with this very purpose.
What this also might look like: this might be some form of virtual water cooler. If you use Slack or another chat/messenging tool, make sure you have an area where people can share what’s going on in their lives.
Make time for in-person meetings.
Just because you are remote most of the time, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make the time for in-person gatherings, meet-ups, or actual meetings. We’re a virtual team at Edoc, but many of us are able to meet in-person on a regular basis.
What this might look like: Every team can find its own cadence based on what’s feasible and what makes sense for the team. Some remote teams even do annual or semi-annual gatherings where all workers are able to come together and spend face-to-face time with one another.
Make sure expectations are clear on communication.
At first, it may feel like over-communication, but there really might not be a such thing as over-communicating in a remote environment. Teamwork relies on communication, and you can almost never over-communicate on a remote team.
On your end, you need to be sure that’s crystal clear for new workers (and existing workers). For the younger generation, you may actually have to outline what those expectations are. Different generations tend to prefer different modes of communication, but you want to define an get alignment on what your communication norms will be.
example, if a client gives someone on the team a call, what’s the expectation
for the returning line of communication? Or, for example, what’s the expectation
around any first meetings with clients. Are those to be done via email, text,
or phone call? The point is this: it may seem like common sense to you as to
when and how to communicate in certain settings, but it’s not going to be clear
to others, especially new people on the team.
A reminder: Someone who has never worked remotely or someone who works remotely a few times a week needs to become aware of this in many situations. They aren’t used to some of the over-communication and proactive communication that needs to happen in a virtual environment, so keep that in mind.
Make sure you have the tools in place that can help your team feel like a team.
Sure, tech is not the driver of your team environment, but it certainly can help support your team. We use Zoom and Slack, just to name two tools. You need tools that help you to communicate and do work more productively, not tools that hold you back.
If you have a leader who embraces this role, allow them to be a ‘culture-keeper’.
One of the best ways to encourage that opportunities for connection happen on your team is to make sure someone (or a team) owns that area. If you have someone in your company who enjoys fostering and advocating for a healthy culture, give them the opportunity (and resources) to lead in that role.
They can really help to share needs and tell top leaders what they may not be aware of.
On the employee side
can all look at the employer to see what they can do to help
combat feelings of isolation. But every remote worker also owes it to themselves to
also find out how they work best. After all, if you feel lonely, it’s just
that: a feeling. That kind of emotional response, at the end of the day, is in
Become more self-aware about how you work best.
Depending on the duration of your career, and depending on whether or not you are new to remote work, you may already know how you work best. You probably have little methods you’ve learned over the years to help you maximize your time each day. Part of that process is a certain degree of self-awareness.
If you want to avoid ever feeling lonely as a remote worker, make sure you’re open to changing how you currently work, if that’s what’s called for.
Don’t limit your office to your home.
If you are feeling lonely and you’ve only worked from home, you may need to change where you’re working. Yes, there are always coffee shops, but there are plenty of alternatives. At Edoc, we are members of the ORCA Coworking space, where we can go at any time.
I’ve even heard of people working at libraries, museums, malls, gyms, fast casual restaurants, and parks, just to name a few. All of these are opportunities to have plenty of interaction with other people.
You also can invite a colleague. The point is this: as long as the nature of your job permits you to do so, be sure to take the time to consider where you’re working.
Do an inventory of how you spend your time outside of “work”.
Where do you go for lunch? Do you take breaks and connect with your neighborhood in any way? Have you ever participated in group workouts or group fitness? Are you involved in the community in other ways? Do you have a social group you normally interact with or could become more involved with? Do you have any pets?
Take the time to examine how you spend your time, in general. (Again, this goes back to self-awareness.)
This can be a great opportunity for more “connection” in your life. It’s a hard truth, but feelings of loneliness in your life might not just be from your work life, so be honest with yourself.
Start scheduling more activities that drive connection.
If you don’t know where to start, my recommendation would be to start scheduling more social activities that you enjoy. I recommend this so you break your current routine, and so that you treat it just as you would any other meeting.
What this might look like: quality groups you can join, coffee with a friend, a walk outside, a group fitness class you always said you wanted to try, or maybe it’s a day where you schedule that you are going to work at a coworking space to try it out.
Don’t be afraid to look at sources like Facebook events, meetup.com, or you can find other remote workers who you can work with in your area. Remember that flexibility and freedom are two of the benefits of remote work, so don’t forget that when it comes to setting up your own workspace and work habits.
Conquering Loneliness as a Remote Worker
Conquering loneliness or isolation is possible: in the best case scenario, employers and employees work together to create a structure and daily habits that encourage valuable connections…and productivity.
As an employer, your next step can be this: talk with your people. You can ask your people what they might enjoy in terms of more social activity or other great ways to feel connected. You don’t want it to be forced, but they may have some ideas they’d enjoy, or ideas that would help them get the right amount of social interaction, if that’s an issue.
Learn More About Digital Labor Law Posters for Remote Teams
Digital Labor Laws by Edoc Service allows all your team members, no matter where they are located, to see and access the latest labor laws required by the state and federal government.
You can post them digitally, or if desired, you can print them, too. The best part? You can have workers sign off and show that they reviewed each poster.
We’re making compliance #MoreHuman so you can be as meaningfully productive as possible each day. Get started and get all your Labor Law posters here.
Kim Geiger leads the eSign division at Edoc Service, Inc., a totally remote company. Digital Labor Laws is a subdivision of eSign.
Edoc is a team that’s passionate about transforming how business is done in America. Kim–and Edoc–are champions of remote work, which is why Edoc offers tools and services to other companies to help them be more productive, more collaborative—and often times, more virtual.