Combatting Social Isolation as a Remote Worker

Mental Health discussions of remote work

With any type of work, there comes problems and concerns.

Many people think working remotely is the dream.

Working autonomously, organising a flexible schedule and living behind a Slack thread is the idea of heaven for those trapped in offices, high rises or crammed into the train at the early hour that is 7AM.

But there are many problems that can occur with remote work.

One that many people don’t speak about is:

Social isolation.

Birmingham (2015)

Kicking off my first real-full time role working in an office was an interesting starting point. I was so nervous about moving to a new city for the year that my contract had issued me for.

The one thing that excited me, was the team I was with.

At Language Show (October 2015)

I’d already worked remotely for the 6-months before I started. As soon as I arrived I spent a lot of time with our (at the time) small team that grew and grew.

This was really fun!

Each day, was like an adventure we all were sharing. This tends to be the case in most start-ups.

When it came to June 2016, I had to head back down to finish my final year of university and subsequently decided that from May 2017, after university, I won’t return full-time, but part-time and remote.

This was around the same time, that I had agreed to officially go freelance.

There’s no doubt that I had already judged freelance work and working so far from cities and start-up filled environments as a reality, but a few months into my remote and freelance work, I suffered from social isolation.

The isolation consisted for the following:

  • Working on my own for the full day
  • Communicating with team only over Slack or voice call
  • A reduced number of visits to see friends
  • Working later and unsocial times

I felt a little trapped.

By all means, I understood the reality of working remotely but after a few months of feeling a little like I was shifting to an introvert from my character of 50% introvert and 50% extrovert.

From someone coming from a fairly social environment like the office I was with and at university (to some extent) — this was super strange!

Me working at home!

I sort of felt a little alone with work and to some extent I still do.

The problem only occured for the first 3 months or so, but left me pondering whether I had made the right decision. It sort of felt like I had been abandoned on a desert island, but with internet access, maybe not that extreme, but something similar.

The cons of working remotely over weighed some of the pros and I was in a position where I needed to take a big review of my work and choices.

But that’s where I introduced a fair amount of opportunities to meet and greet people outside of work and avoid this conversation with myself.

Sometimes, although I endorse remote work, this is something they don’t sell you in the manual, something you have to control and work out for yourself.

Here’s the recipe for me:

  • Buying a Gym Membership — Running/Gym actually helped me to be around more people in a common environment.
  • A day for calls — Tuesday and Thursdays tend to be my day for calls, I get to speak to the various teams I work with and it helps a lot.
  • Cinema Trips — Some say this might not be social, but it’s a big one for me. I love visits to the cinema and seeing friends.
  • Multiple Journal Entries — I do my best to document my day 2–3 times when I’m out. It helps to share what’s happening and doesn’t take 5-mins.
  • Visiting more cities — I book a trip to a bigger city every 1–2 months to see a new area. Even if it’s a city 40miles away, it makes sense to explore.
  • Short 15-min runs — Even a run to town would help me feel a little more free and curb any worries around this topic.

Combined with more family walks and activities with my fiance, this actually helped after the first 3-months of working remotely.

As a fairly young person, you are sold that you need to be social and have a lot of friends accessible at any given time, so that didn’t help, neither did my internal monologue about this, but I came up with a set of rules to help boost my “socialness” and help revive a little life into my daily routine.

Don’t get me wrong, remote work might not even be for you.

That’s why I gave myself a 12-month bracket. If after that, If felt like the move was suitable back to office-based work, I would have. But not before I had exhausted all ideas. This being early on in my remote work adventures, I obviously was magnifying everything, which now I see fairly plain cut.

Hopefully this short story shared a little more into the pros and cons of remote working. I endorse remote working, but implore those exploring it to always speak to other remote workers and gather their tips. This is something I did a little, but not too much and could have helped over a few dreary months.

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