If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you might notice that the days are getting colder and darker outside. You might light the candles, snuggle uo on your couch with a hut of whatever you like and watch outside while the people outside walk in the cold rain or snow. The holidays are around the corner. Even though this season can be filled with warmth and happiness, others might feel isolated and lonely.
I’ll be honest, I dreaded the holidays for personal reasons. I always felt isolated and lonely, burying myself in work during these days. Work formed a perfect distraction, no one will ask questions if you work extra hard during these busy times. But holiday loneliness is a looming shadow. That’s why I think it's extra important to take care of each other at work. Especially when you work remotely.
(Holiday) loneliness is real
Isolation and loneliness are one of the biggest struggles within remote work. According to the latest research by WorkAnywhere, nearly 50% of the respondents feel lonely working remotely, while the same amount values daily social interactions with their coworkers.
Loneliness is a struggle. Those numbers might even be more prevalent during the holidays. Another research reports that around 70% of American respondents feel increasingly lonely towards the end of November. While 10% report feeling extremely lonely. There are a number of reasons like depression, missing loved ones or seasonal depressions. It isn’t something you should ignore.
What does loneliness look like?
Loneliness is something that feels very personal and it is definitely not the same for everyone. So it might be difficult to spot when someone shows signs of disconnection or loneliness. On the Safetywing webinar of 10 November, 2022, Both Mel from Bravely and Deimanté from Mindletic summed up perfectly:
If someone shows signs of any change of behavior, and acts differently, it might be worth checking in. For example, if a chatty person suddenly becomes silent or the other way around. Someone might suddenly shut off the camera, show decreased interest in career progression or social gatherings. When you spot these signs, make sure you can openly check in. Make mental issues intentional discussable within your company. This is essential.
What can you do yourself to deal with (holiday) loneliness?
Again, the way I deal with loneliness can be totally different than what works for you. A couple of times a day I check in with myself. I ask questions like: how do I feel today? How is my concentration? Is there anything I can do now to improve my day? Based on that I experiment and adjust my day. If I feel like I need to have people around me, I move to a cafe or a coworking space. If thatdoesn’t work, I go for a walk and clear my head or socialize with friends. I made sure that I’m involved with people outside of work.
I recently joined the local table tennis club for a well-deserved workout and social break. If I don’t feel like seeing people, but I want some social banter I might fire up World of Warcraft and interact with my guild
The most important thing is that you find ways that work for you. You know yourself the best. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Plan social time with friends and family if you feel like you need it. There is nothing wrong with admitting that it's hard and that you’re feeling lonely.
How employers can support employees with loneliness
Loneliness has long been viewed as a personal problem, rather than a company problem. I beg to differ. We spent most of our waking hours working, feeling connected to your coworkers is so important for your happiness. Employers definitely can support this. It can vary from offering a stipend for you to use for a coworking space or a wellness budget to hit the gym or sauna.
Making structured time to build social connections is, in my opinion, is the most powerful tool you have to combat loneliness in the workplace. Building human connections takes time and effort.
That's the reason we are building Unlock, to remove all the hassle from people leaders and managers by orchestrating all the experiences and activities so that teams can focus on connecting intentionally.
In-person meetups are another powerful tool to combat loneliness in the workplace. We shared our learnings about offsites in the past. If you want to know more about creating the perfect off-site, I would advise you to read this fantastic blog by Chase Warrington, Head of Remote at Doist.
The holiday season might be the most beautiful time of the year. Make sure to be extra considerate. Spend some time together, get to know each other in a 1:1. You might even want to write some appreciation cards. Whatever you decide to do. Be sure that you’re intentional about what you do. Make sure everyone feels valued, appreciated and included.
Enjoy this time of year and I wish you the best and Happy Holidays!