Feeling isolated? Reach out and stay connected
In a recent survey of our candidates, a quarter said that isolation was their biggest challenge during lockdown, with many feeling cut-off from their colleagues and missing their usual work routines. For months now, many of us have been working from home. Some of us have been made redundant or furloughed; some are shielding and may not have seen anyone else in person for weeks on end; others may be struggling to cope with the demands of juggling work with home-schooling. It’s no wonder that many of us are showing signs of stress and anxiety and feeling lonelier and more isolated than before.
The first thing to remember is that you’re not alone. Remote working isn’t for everyone. It’s much harder than you may think. Once the novelty of no commuting wears off, you learn much more about yourself when working from home than you ever can when working in an office. If you read our previous article about your home working style, then you may gain an insight into what you’re going through. We believe that many people may fall into the ‘honeymooner’ category – they may have enjoyed the initial change but are now ready to return to a form of ‘normality’.
Working from home can be lonely because the social element of your job is taken away. If you’re used to working in a team, then you’ll know how important it is to bounce ideas off one another. You’ll have likely spent the majority of your career working with others on projects. No matter how accessible video conferencing is it will never replicate an office environment.
For those who have been furloughed or made redundant, isolation can feel even more severe. During a time when we haven’t been able to enjoy many of our usual activities, you may feel the loss of work even more. As well as feeling isolated, you may start to lose your confidence or have anxiety about returning to the workplace. Again, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. If you are looking for a new job, then our trained consultants can help you to boost your confidence and suggest ways to improve your employability.
Maintain relationships with colleagues
When you are working from home, then you have to make an extra effort to maintain relationships with colleagues.
It’s easy to take it for granted when you work closely together in an office environment. Simple conversations can take place throughout the day. The social element of work shouldn’t be understated. And it’s the loss of this social aspect which is what a lot of workers are actively missing.
This is where you need to be more creative and make more of an effort with others. Perhaps you could pick up the phone or organise a daily team meeting via video chat to remain connected. Having regular conversations with others can play a big part in preventing feelings of isolation. Inspiration can strike from many places. Sometimes ideas can be sparked from innocuous comments and new campaigns can be developed in new ways. To maintain this team camaraderie, you may wish to implement a ‘portfolio page’ within your project management system where you can upload examples of any campaigns which have inspired you. Similarly, if you have read an interesting article or blog, why not set up a sharing facility with your colleagues?
Maintaining relationships with remote colleagues is also about encouraging social communications. You could take it upon yourself to facilitate social meetings with colleagues. As more places start to open up, you may find that you can start to facilitate face-to-face meetings. But as restrictions remain in place, it’s important to still consider those who may be unable to meet in person. Perhaps you can arrange workplace team quizzes or set up virtual team bonding exercises. If your line manager hasn’t been able to organise anything themselves, then you could speak to your HR department for their recommendations on how to go about launching virtual team events.
Lean in and keep communicating
If you’ve worked in a senior role and found yourself redundant or furloughed, then you may struggle with the isolation caused by your unexpected lower profile. You may be used to colleagues coming to you, asking you for your advice, and your input into projects. If you’re furloughed and unable to work at all, this shift in mindset can be huge. Therefore, you may wish to spend some time maintaining your profile. This could involve simple tasks such as updating your LinkedIn page or actively contributing to various blogs or social media posts. Online networking is one way to boost your profile, collaborate and build new connections with peers.
If you have been able to work from home, have you maintained visibility with other colleagues, or have you retreated into the background? A challenge for line managers and HR teams is to ensure that all remote workers receive credit and recognition for the work that they are doing. When you work from home, you may start to feel underappreciated – especially if you’ve been going above and beyond to ensure that tasks get completed and projects finished on time. If this sounds familiar, then make sure you focus on regular communications with other people in your team. You could ask for regular one-to-one conversations or personal reviews with your line manager. The more proactive you are about maintaining communications with your colleagues, the less isolated you may feel.