No woman is an island. But this one 👈 (that's me) doesn't mind it so much. As a pretty hardcore introvert, the challenges of the last year with increased isolation and social distancing have been a little easier to swallow. But even as I embrace the six-feet-apart life, I've had moments of intense loneliness.
Digital nomads and remote workers who were living the work-from-anywhere lifestyle prior to 2020 have dealt with the disconnect doldrums for years. And now, a whole new crop of remote workers — especially those thrust into it against their will by the pandemic — are learning that flying solo often comes with a lot of turbulence.
In fact, in a study, 20 percent of remote workers cited loneliness as the biggest challenge they've faced in the shift to working from home. Even before the pandemic, research showed that loneliness in the U.S. has reached epidemic proportions, especially among Gen Z-ers.
So, how can you combat loneliness while embracing a remote/nomad lifestyle and reaping the rewards it can provide? As a fully distributed company, First Page employees have been in your shoes. We get how hard it is to be a free agent on a field built for teams. And we've got some of our best coping skills for dealing with going it alone.
But first, let's talk a little bit more about what loneliness is...and what it isn't.
Whether you're a seasoned digital nomad, traveling the world and jetting off to exotic locations, or a remote worker whose "office" doesn't get much more exotic than the kitchen table, chances are, you've felt the loneliness that comes with working outside of a traditional corporate setting. But it's important to understand the difference between being alone and feeling lonely. You can be working in a crowded café in a bustling international metropolis and still feel lonely. Or you can be tucked away alone in your home office, with only pets and spouses to interact with and feel completely fulfilled.
Loneliness is complicated, and it's something that can't always be alleviated by being around more people. The research cited above indicates that more than half of Americans do not have a meaningful, in-person connection with others. And two in five say the relationships they do have just aren't meaningful. Often, feeling lonely has more to do with feeling misunderstood, underappreciated, or taken for granted. It's an insidious thing that can weasel its way into your brain when you least expect it and take up space there that could go to more productive tasks.
So, whether you're working around the world, or working around the house, how do you cope with the remote work blues?
Flexibility and freedom are often the characteristics remote workers say they value most about their job. But that flexibility can also lead to some bad habits, like staying in your jammies all day, wandering to the fridge when you're bored, or mindlessly scrolling Facebook (where, BTW, research shows you aren't too likely to find a meaningful connection). Without a routine, the loneliness you feel can compound and often lead to depression. It sounds basic, but in case you need to hear it from someone else, here are some tips on how to create a good routine:
If remote work has you feeling some type of way (the lonely type), consider shaking up the space around you. While your needs may fluctuate from day to day, most remote workers fall into one of two categories:
Loneliness rears its ugly head when you have the persistent feeling that you don't belong anywhere. This can be especially difficult for digital nomads and remote workers who are single or don't have nearby family. But there are ways to find groups of people with the same interests, passions, and worldviews that will welcome you with open arms. Some of the ways to connect with a group and forge new relationships include:
If you're missing the office but it still isn't feasible for you to return yet (or you're a digital nomad or freelancer with no office to return to), there are ways to replicate the hustle and bustle of an average office space without ever leaving home.
Loneliness has less to do with other people, and more to do with you. It's an emotional state, not a structural one. So while it might be tempting to join online knitting groups, work in noisy coffee shops, or try online dating (again), the reality is that none of these will address the core issue. Mental health, already on the decline in the U.S., took a nosedive during the pandemic. As isolation set in, many remote workers found themselves adopting unhealthy habits and ineffective coping strategies. But that saying about not being able to pour from an empty pitcher is true. You can't give anything to others unless you have the extra to give. To banish loneliness and focus on your relationships, you first have to focus on you. Here are a few ways to take care of yourself in lonely times:
Remote work and the work-from-anywhere lifestyle comes with a lot of perks, but it can also come with a cost. Loneliness is sometimes part of the gig, but it can be combatted with the tips listed above. We've also got just one, last, insider tip: come to work for First Page! We're hiring remote workers and digital nomads who demonstrate expertise and deliver results. And best of all, we've crafted a work culture that spans the globe and keeps our team connected. Find the right fit for you right here.