On the Clock

How to Fight the Telecommuting Blues

If you’re not careful, working remotely can become terribly isolating.

Working remotely comes with a few undeniable privileges: the freedom to stay in your pajamas all day, take conference calls from your sofa, and avoid the constant supervision of your higher-ups.

But if you’re not careful, working remotely can actually feel like solitary confinement. Without the chatter and buzz of an office environment or any kind of fixed schedule, it may be hard to keep up your productivity and enjoy the opportunity to work from a place of your choosing. Indeed, in a recent study by software application firm Buffer, remote workers said loneliness was one of their biggest struggles—second only to being able to unplug after work.

Studies show you need to put yourself in the right mindset to work, and that starts with taking a shower and putting on clothes that aren’t what you sleep in.

And with 60% of companies now offering some kind of telecommuting option, amounting to about 3.9 million employees working from home according to Global Workplace Analytics, it’s important for workers to consider strategies for combating loneliness. Here’s what career experts advise.

If you look nice, you’ll feel nice.

It may sound counterintuitive: Why dress for the office, or even change out of your sleepwear, when you’re not going anywhere? But studies show you need to put yourself in the right mindset to work, and that starts with taking a shower and putting on clothes that aren’t what you sleep in. Need proof it helps? The famed writer Gay Talese, who worked from home, always donned three-piece Italian suits. “It changes your mood, your lens, and your perspective,” said David Ginchansky, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance. “Dressing up makes us feel good.”

Ginchansky, who often works from home, always wears socks that he finds funny, so when he puts his feet up, he’ll remember to smile. And even simply wearing shoes while at the computer can send a signal to your brain that your proverbial work boots are on, helping to return your focus.

Schedule your day.

We know, it sounds silly; of course you have a schedule, right? Actually, one of the most isolating aspects of being a remote worker is that unless you have daily meetings that start and end your days, the workday can feel endless. That’s why it’s critical to create bookends for yourself: schedule an early-morning exercise class or join an evening happy hour with friends to give the day some structure. And if the beginning and end of your days are too variable, zero in on lunch time. “Research has proven that splitting up your day and not working straight through actually makes you more productive,” Ginchansky said. Such activities will keep your workday in check and give you some necessary social exposure.

Opt for video chat whenever possible.

These days, so much can be done through email, text, and Slack that it isn’t necessary to see the person you’re talking to. But when you’re working remotely, it may benefit you to get in as much virtual face-to-face time as possible: according to a study by the Edinger Consulting Group, one in four respondents said managers who insisted on some face time with remote employees were more successful than those who didn’t. In meetings where you have the option to do a video chat, do it. Sure, it means you can’t be as freewheeling as you might be off camera, but it will also give you the human connection you so need.

Change up your surroundings.

Finally, an obvious solution to fight the work-from-home monotony—but one we often don’t use enough—is to take your laptop to a coffee shop or library to switch up your environment. If you find such places too distracting (hello, loud indie music), even just changing the room you work in at home can help. Instead of looking out your kitchen window and pining to be in the sun, try setting yourself up outside for a while.

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