There’s no denying the flexibility and freedom that comes with working from home. Yet many people struggle with the isolation and lack of social connection you get in the workplace.
There’s no question the COVID-19 pandemic changed our levels of social connection, how we work and interact. Lockdowns and restrictions recommended and, in some cases, mandated that people work from home where possible.
Some people embraced the change, with 60% of workers preferring a mix of working from home and office work. However, many people experienced increased anxiety, stress and mental health issues due to the arrangements.
Why it’s important to find social connection when working from home
Humans are naturally social. We live in family packs, establish communities, forge strong friendship groups, join sports teams and enrol in social clubs.
The importance of human connection has been well-documented. Studies show that social interaction is essential for mental and physical health and life expectancy.
We gain many benefits from social connections:
- Strong social connections have positive effects on our mental health and wellbeing.
- We have a decreased risk of depression and anxiety.
- We feel more connected to the world around us.
- We learn new skills and make friends.
- Social groups provide us with an important part of our identity.
On the flip side, the impact of social isolation can be detrimental. Research shows that prolonged social isolation:
- Increases levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
- Raises blood pressure.
- Increases our risk of depression and anxiety.
- Increases our obesity risk.
- Increases anti-social behaviour.
Other ways to find social connection when working from home
It can be easy to feel isolated when working from home, so it’s important to find ways to connect with others. Whether that means scheduling regular catch-ups or video calls with friends and family or just taking a break to chat in the kitchen, staying connected can help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Make time for family and friends. When you’re flat-out busy juggling the demands of work and family commitments, finding time for extended family and friends can feel like added pressure. But making time for your inner circle has so many health benefits. It strengthens our sense of belonging and releases feel-good hormones, reducing depression and anxiety.
Join a gym or start your own fitness group. Making time for your physical health is as important as looking after your mental health. Looking after your physical health doesn’t have to be expensive. If you can’t afford or don’t like gyms, organising a group of friends for a fitness session in the local park or even a brisk walk can be as effective. Exercising with friends also gives you the bonus of social interaction.
Volunteer. With social restrictions lifted, it’s now a great time to volunteer at your favourite charity or your child’s school. Perhaps now more than ever, charities need help. Why not reach out to your preferred charity to see what you can do?
How to stay connected when running a business from home
Running a business from home can be challenging. Especially if it’s just you. For sole traders, social connections can be even more elusive. While the cliché of spending your day sipping lattes at your local café paints a glamorous picture, the reality is it’s not an effective way to work.
Isolation, paired with the stress of running your business, can provide the perfect storm for feelings of loneliness, stress and anxiety. In addition to the points listed above, there are several ways business owners can stay connected. And, even better, they don’t have to be expensive.
Coworking spaces. Coworking spaces are becoming increasingly popular among small business owners and freelancers. Not only do they provide access to office services, they also provide opportunities to connect with other people in the shared space. You can also use them to host network events.
Facebook groups. Joining a Facebook group related to your industry provides a safe space to discuss ideas with like-minded people and give reassurance when the going gets tough. They’re also a great place to network and grow business contacts.
Join a business networking group. Joining a local business networking group offers an excellent opportunity to meet new people, gain knowledge and build contacts. Looking at your state or territory-run organisation is a great place to start.
Social connection is vital when working from home
Although it has its challenges, working from home can have many benefits. By being mindful of our physical and mental health and staying connected with friends and family, we can make the most of this new way of working.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or socially isolated, ask for help. Try one of the above tips or speak with your doctor. Working from home can be rewarding, but it can also be tough. Make sure you look after yourself.
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