Studies show that loneliness is becoming an increasingly common physical and mental health concern for which remote workers are acutely at risk. With coronavirus forcing employees into 100% work from home (WFH) guidelines, and in some cases, complete shelter in place restrictions, workplace loneliness is at an all-time high.
Understandably, employees who are used to seeing each other every day are especially feeling this disconnect. And, with coffee shops and restaurants closed, remote employees who were always 100% remote no longer have their routines those routines.
Employees converting to a remote role are afraid that they won’t get the social stimulation they need to stay motivated and engaged at work. Working from home can lead to endless distractions. Work productivity can be sluggish and fragmented. At most companies, the work they did has slipped away, or they are unable to generate new sales or profits. All of this adds up to be a strain and a sense of isolation.
As an Executive Communication Coach who specializes in Effective Remote Communication at The Speech Improvement Company, I am offering a few of our newest tips to help conquer remote work loneliness during the coronavirus pandemic.
1. Bet on the weather. This idea is fun and costs nothing to roll out. To be clear, gambling at most places of work is illegal, so it’s best to keep this a light and fun activity with no actual money at stake. (Think a March Madness type pool but renamed March Sadness!) Perhaps the winner can gather donations to their favorite charity or bragging rights for six months. Maybe they get a paid day off on their birthday. Any prize helps it feel more exciting. To bet on the weather, it can be elaborate or straightforward. Commit to a few cities to bet on, commit to how you will bet – by temperature, by an icon on an app, by weather activity (rain, thunder, fog, partly sunny), or any parameter you like. This could be a one-time event on a Friday afternoon meeting or a weekly event. Even with prizes that have no monetary value, you are creating a new sense of fun and friendly competition.
2. Set up a remote lunch meeting with a surprise guest. Have one person on the team volunteer to bring in a special guest to a lunchtime meeting – their pet, child, friend, neighbor, or anyone who would be willing to pop on the video call for a few minutes. If they can access the meeting link remotely, anyone in the world can be your Surprise Guest, like your parents or spin class instructor and, is a fantastic way to get to know your team members and shake up the monotony of meetings.
3. Plan a company-wide talent show on a Friday afternoon. Invite anyone and everyone who would like to take part – your spouse, partner, dog, bunny, child, or yourself. Let family members in your home tune in as well. After all the performances are complete, use a poll or chat feature to determine the top three winners of the talent show. Winners will receive a prize with no monetary value like a royal background on the next four video calls, or a crown mailed to them that was handmade by a fellow team member.
4. Send a handwritten letter to a team member. When permission has been given, list all team members’ names and home addresses alphabetically in an Excel document. Everyone writes a handwritten letter to the person under them on the list. If this is not appropriate in your organization because home addresses are private, handwrite the letter, take a picture of it, and send it electronically via email or IM. While the idea of pen pals has long been forgotten, the concept of receiving a handwritten note is still a lot of fun.
5. Host a weekly live edition of “Lifestyles of the Bored and Quarantined.” Have one team member walk around their house for 10 minutes before a team call to give their team a virtual tour. What they share is up to them, but ideas include pets, plants, kids, favorite rooms of the house, the backyard, or wildlife. These meetings are a fantastic no-cost way to get to know each other more and create stronger remote team bonds.
These WFH ideas are fresh off the press and just in time for the continued social isolation and mandatory work from home policies. We expect all team meetings will be remote meetings for at least a few more weeks, possibly much longer. Use these tips to combat loneliness, strengthen your remote team bond, and have a sense of playfulness during this time of fear and the unknown. Remember, you can depend on your team to help get you through these times, even if you are not in the same office, city, or country.
While this post offers fun and playful ideas, remote work loneliness can be serious and upsetting. We encourage you to talk to someone about it – a boss, teammate, spouse, or friend online. When you open up and share what you’re feeling, you give someone the chance to support you, and, in return, you hear how others might be feeling as well. Once you’ve talked to someone about your feelings, you can more effectively support each other and get the emotional support you need to keep plugging away.