Sometimes we don’t realise we are lonely
It is over two years since COVID-19 first emerged and dramatically altered our lives. The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (9-15 May) is loneliness and we thought this would be a timely reminder to reflect on how our new hybrid way of working and living may be affecting us; and whether, without even realising it, we are experiencing feelings of social isolation from spending more time alone.
Hopefully this article will help you to realise and/or acknowledge if you’re feeling a little lonely and how to manage your loneliness.
The sense of belonging to a group
The Covid pandemic meant that many of us had to work from home, use online meeting spaces such as MS teams and Zoom and find new routines. We no longer had a commute, and it became harder to separate work from home. And while working from home has many benefits such as not having to pay for lunch or travel home during the rush hour, it can also be lonely.
You lose the ‘popping in for a chat’ moment which is so important.
We may no longer have the connection and sense of belonging to a group. Even though you might work as part of a team, an online meeting is not the same as going to a meeting face-to-face where it is easier to bounce ideas off each other and let the creative juices flow. You lose the ‘popping in for a chat’ moment which is so important.
The pressure to look your best
Due to the lack of human interaction, we do have more time to work, but this can mean we find it hard to stop and switch off because we don’t have a commute or a reason to get home. Working from home can be just as tiring as working in an office, online calls are weirdly tiring and it feels as though there is a pressure to perform well and to look your best on Zoom; this can be a lonely feeling too.
We are busy with work, and we don’t pause to reflect on how we are feeling or to notice that we may not have spoken to anyone for a while.
Sometimes we don’t realise that we are lonely and need human connection; we are busy with work, and we don’t pause to reflect on how we are feeling or to notice that we may not have spoken to anyone for a while. Working from home means that it can often feel like all we are doing is working, there is an assumption that because we are at home, we’re around more and are online all the time.
Loneliness in young people
Something sometimes overlooked is loneliness in young people, especially those entering a new phase in their lives – starting a degree or a job – but this age group has been hugely affected by the pandemic. The vital connection they need took a back seat and isolation took its place; their educational and social experiences were limited and not what they should have been with everything going online. Young people have missed out on a lot and it is important to acknowledge this.
Managing hybrid working
As we return to some form of normality, the term ‘hybrid working’ is something we are hearing a lot about, with many companies asking their employees to work onsite two-three days a week, and the other days at home.
Here are some tips on how to manage hybrid working and how to find connection when working from home:
1 – Get Outside
Breathing in fresh air can help us feel connected, even if that connection is only to ourselves. Or taking part in a group exercise class in your local park before your working day begins can give you a sense of belonging that we so desperately need right now.
2 – Change it up
Maybe try working in a local coffee shop – while you may be working alone, the buzz of fresh coffee being percolated and the people chatting around you may help you to feel more connected to the world around you.
3 – Have a break
If you want to feel more connected to your colleagues when working from home, maybe set 10-15 minutes aside for an online coffee break and chat.
4 – Manage your time
If possible, work out what you do best when working from home and when working onsite. Set tasks that match your environment for example those that require others’ input in the office and those that require some deep thinking at home. Make it work for you and your own unique ways of working and being!
5 – Structure
Incorporate routine into the days you are working from home and take regular breaks, especially around lunch-time.
6 – Down time is important too
Switching off from work can be tricky, especially when working from home and the lines between work and play are blurred. But it’s vitally that when the working day is done, we rest and relax in the evenings, otherwise we may find ourselves vulnerable to stress and burnout.