Working from home has been an incredible experience for me over the years. Aside from the obvious benefits, such as no need for a daily commute, no awkward elevator conversations and more time spent with my dog, having the flexibility to structure my day as I please has been a real game changer, particularly as an insomniac.
Unfortunately, when working from home, there is often the downside of reduced social contact. Our jobs provide us with a major connection to the rest of the world, and when we remove ourselves from that environment, it can be difficult to maintain the same levels of social interaction.
How to Avoid Loneliness and Isolation When Working Remotely
Remote working has been shown to have a detrimental effect on individuals, with the absence of regular social engagement leading to feelings of isolation, anxiety, and the development of negative thinking patterns. This toxic combination can result in reduced productivity and increased employee turnover.
Essentially, in order to combat feelings of isolation and loneliness when working remotely, it is essential that team efforts are made. Therefore, it is largely the responsibility of those in leadership positions to take the necessary steps to prevent such issues. Here are four ways for remote managers and team leaders to assist their teams in overcoming the potential isolation that can come with working from home:
Strategies for Overcoming Loneliness in a Telecommuting Work Environment
It’s not enough to suggest that workers get out of the office. Don’t let them out of it.
I am often tempted to remain in the comfort of my home office and forego leaving the house for the day in order to focus on work. I have many valid reasons for doing so, such as inclement weather, a heavy workload, the presence of leftovers in the fridge, and the possibility of World War III breaking out.
The probability of a remote worker venturing outside their home without a good reason is extremely low. This behavior carries with it the potential risk of harm and can lead to serious consequences. Research has shown that a lack of regular outdoor activity can lead to an increase in negative emotions, such as sadness and anxiety.
Remote workers require managerial input at this juncture. Inviting them back into the workplace could provide a significant morale boost to help us adjust to no longer working from home. Additionally, there are a range of options for achieving this.
Challenge Yourself to Take the Next Step
Encouraging a healthy competitive spirit among remote team members can be a great way to motivate them to get out and about. It may seem counterintuitive, but encouraging team members to compete for the benefit of their own wellbeing can be a great way to foster a sense of camaraderie and connection.
Encourage your team to take part in a competition to see who can walk the most kilometers in a set period of time. Keep track of everyone’s daily step count using a pedometer app or their smartphone. This could be a great way to foster team building, both inside and outside the office.
Coffee shop gift certificates
If your organization has the resources, it may be beneficial to provide complimentary lattes to your remote workers at Starbucks or another coffee chain on a regular basis. This gesture of goodwill will help to increase morale and, more importantly, encourage your remote employees to step out of their comfort zones from time to time.
Meetings should be encouraged.
It is advisable to encourage remote employees who reside in the same region to arrange occasional in-person meetings. This could be achieved in a shared workspace, cafe, or even one of the worker’s homes. Alternatively, virtual meetings via online hangouts are an effective backup plan.
Conferences and other events in the field
Recent trends have seen companies sending their personnel to conferences, seminars, and other events related to their field. Remote teams should not be excluded from this and there are many advantages for remote workers to participate in such events, such as socialization and career development opportunities. This could be the most effective way to motivate remote workers to get out of their comfort zone and develop their skills.
Take a break from your inbox
It is almost impossible to imagine a world without email; it is an efficient, user-friendly and accessible tool. However, its formality and lack of personal connection can make it difficult to build relationships with colleagues, particularly when working in a virtual team. For this reason, email should not be the only form of communication used in a team.
It is recommended that your team utilize a project management service such as Slack or Trello, as they are efficient and provide a simplified experience, akin to that of email. In addition to this, such services promote greater collaboration and engagement between remote workers, allowing them to form a stronger bond and feel part of the same team.
Teams should maximize the use of video conferencing in their daily operations by selecting an interactive program that best meets the business’s needs and budgetary requirements from the range of options available.
Finally, conducting morning calls can be beneficial if all members of the virtual team work within the same time zone. This helps to promote a more productive start to the workday for remote employees, and encourages them to stay focused on their tasks for the duration of the day.
If there is no clear justification for a group meeting, it is beneficial to arrange a suitable time for a virtual team to come together. Celebrating the completion of a project as a team can be a great morale booster, and it is recommended that remote teams meet up at least once a week.
The Time Has Come for Chatter
Without adequate recreational activities, my remote workforce can become isolated and demotivated. Excessive focus on objectives and targets can lead to a decrease in staff satisfaction. It is therefore essential to ensure that remote employees have the opportunity to take regular breaks and engage in recreational activities.
It is essential to cultivate a relaxed atmosphere in remote working environments, as this encourages open dialogue and helps people to feel at ease with one another.
As team captains, it is your responsibility to lead by example when it comes to managing a remote team. Building trust will be key and can be achieved by allowing your colleagues to get to know you on a personal level. Where appropriate, take time to ask them about their lives, allowing conversations to develop into other topics to create a sense of camaraderie.
Use Your Human Skills to Fight Isolation!
It is essential for managers to periodically check in with their remote workers to ensure their wellbeing is being maintained during these challenging times. To ensure staff remain productive and content, it is recommended to engage with them every few months to identify any potential issues or queries, as well as to ascertain if they require any further assistance.
Employees will still appreciate your consideration, even if they insist that everything is alright no matter how often you ask. It is still a crucial endeavor to undertake, as it fosters an environment where staff feel comfortable to bring up any issues that arise.
It is essential for managers to consider the living arrangements of their remote workers. Gathering information on who in the team lives alone or with a partner will provide an understanding of who might need further support and who may not.
Working at a distance is not an excuse for working alone but rather for strengthening team bonds.
Managers have an incredibly challenging role to play, as they must balance the interests of the firm and its employees. In times of pressure, the former can often be put on the back-burner. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to devise methods that ensure remote workers feel supported and connected. Once these new procedures have been successfully implemented, it will be possible to return to business as usual.
For the past decade, our headhunting firm has been operating remotely. We have developed, improved and broadened our offering within a digital setting. When we consider ‘remote’ working, we consider it to be a diverse and creative approach. If you would like to find out more about how to expand your team with remote workers, please do not hesitate to get in touch.