97 days ago
Whilst many previously central office-based colleagues are enjoying the lack of commute and the casual workwear, not everyone is loving working from home. The gap between the lovers and loathers may be more obvious to some than others…
I’m writing this from my dining room - fluffy sweater on (jumper if you’re Northern), hand sanitiser nearby, and snacking my way through a cupboard of biscuits, strategically positioned out of toddler reach, when I’m the only one that needs help avoiding it.
I’m getting plenty of work done, but I’m starting to get unnerved by the lack of stimulation. It’s been hours (days?) since I interacted face to face with a human who is not related to me, and cabin fever is setting in.
As the person behind the Make Yourself at Home and Let’s Get Back Together campaigns, the last six months have seen me research and issue heaps of advice, all of which I’ve taken onboard at some point or other.
I live over an hour’s drive from the office I’m usually based at, am a working parent, and my age and career choice make me a white-collar millennial. I’m supposed to be cheering on the remote work revolution!
Whilst there are elements of working from home that work really well for me, I’ve realised one simple fact from doing it repeatedly for a long period of time: I can’t be my best, most human self, when I’m not around other people at least some of the time.
“It’s a very personal decision that works for some and doesn’t work for others,” says Julia Austin, a former tech executive and professor at Harvard Business School. “Some people are more productive and happy and find other ways to get social contact if they work from home. And some people aren’t happy working alone.”
Luckily for me, I’m taking action by reaching out to friends, through my team and line manager, and bringing the challenge to our wider team meeting, so that we can all talk openly about how to support one another.
If you find yourself in a similar position, or feel that one of your team mates may be struggling, here’s how to take action:
Just talking to someone about how you feel is a great start. That can be a colleague, your line manager, or via one of your HR team. Let them know that you’d like help in exploring what can be done differently.
Find out what’s not working
Often, when we feel something’s not working, we try to solve it as one big problem, rather than getting to the few, core smaller elements that we can actually do something about.
Have a think in more detail about exactly what aspect of working from home hinders you from being at your most creative, productive and at your happiest work self. Focus on moving those small things forward!
Do some research
There are so many incredible ideas for combating the isolation or loss of human, social interaction that you can make use of. One internet search for virtual team-building activities returned no less than 37 options for me to put forward!
Ask for help from those who are thriving
There may be people within your team or network that thrive on working from home and wouldn’t change a thing about it. Sure, part of that will be down to their personality, but part may also be owed to good habits they’ve instilled, or they learnt from others too.
Ask for support in key areas, like how to structure your day, or ensure you’re taking breaks.
Make it a team challenge to solve
If there’s one sure-fire way of not tackling loneliness and isolation, it’s attempting to do it alone. Raise the profile up to team level and get everybody talking about and committing to helping those who struggle.
Open up to an impartial listener
Sometimes, an external outlet or unfiltered piece of advice is all it takes to start improving the situation. For a free, impartial listening ear, you can always reach out to Talk, our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).
Earlier this year during the peak of the pandemic, usage of our EAP more than doubled. While we never want our employees to struggle, it's great to see that colleagues reaching out for help when they need it. Remember, your EAP is not simply there as a crisis line - life management experts are there to help you through any issue you might face. It's free, so why not make the most of it?
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