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The Remote Worker's Guide to Beating Isolation and Improving Wellbeing


A laptop with a notebook and a mug next to a plant in a vase on a desk


Introduction


Working from home is becoming more common, with remote work growing in popularity even before the COVID-19 pandemic. This blog lays out 15 advantages and disadvantages of remote work and expands on it very well. While working remotely has its perks like flexibility and no commute, it can also come with certain challenges. One major potential drawback of working from home is increased isolation and loneliness.


When working in an office, there is social interaction with coworkers built into your day. At home, you lose that social connection and can feel secluded. This sense of isolation can take a toll on your mental health and well-being over time.


However, with some adjustments, you can create a healthy and happy remote work life. There are strategies and techniques you can implement to combat loneliness and stay mentally well, even when working alone. This article will explore the obstacles remote employees face regarding mental health and actionable ways to overcome them. The key is prioritizing self-care and finding fulfillment outside of work hours. With some changes to your daily routine and environment, you can maintain strong mental wellbeing while working from home.


Challenges of Working Remotely


Working remotely, especially long-term, can present some unique challenges compared to working in a traditional office setting. Many of these challenges stem from the lack of in-person social interaction and communication with coworkers.


Lack of Social Interaction


people sitting around a desk talking while on a break

One of the biggest potential downsides of remote work is the isolation and lack of social interaction with coworkers. Casual conversations by the water cooler or coffee machine and team lunches are hard to recreate remotely. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and disconnection. Video calls help bridge the gap, but it's not quite the same as being together in person.


Communication Issues


Communication can also become more difficult when working remotely. Quick in-person chats to discuss a project or problem are replaced with scheduled calls, emails, or instant messages. Important context can get lost in translation without the benefits of body language and facial expressions during discussions. Misunderstandings may occur more frequently as well.


Distractions at Home


Working from home introduces a whole new world of potential distractions from pets, children, housework, etc. Creating boundaries and staying focused on work throughout the day can be challenging without the natural separation of going into an office. Noise and interruptions need to be minimized to allow for productive focus.


Working Longer Hours


Studies show remote employees tend to work longer hours on average. With no set start and end time to the day and no commute, work can bleed into nights and weekends. Maintaining a good work-life balance is crucial but can be difficult when working from a home environment.


Strategies to Combat Loneliness


Working remotely can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. While it may seem counterintuitive, it's important to continue finding ways to socialize and connect with others even when working from home. Here are some strategies to help combat loneliness:


Take breaks - Get up from your desk and step away from work periodically. Even a short break to make a cup of tea, stretch your legs, or get some fresh air can re-energize you. Consider pairing breaks with social interactions - call a friend or family member for a quick chat.


Plan virtual social events with co-workers - Schedule video chat coffee breaks, virtual happy hours, or online gaming sessions. Tools like Zoom, Google Hangouts, Slack, and Discord make it easy to see and talk with colleagues. Social events don't have to be long - even 15-30 minutes can boost morale.


Set boundaries - While it's important to stay connected, also set boundaries around your availability. Turn off notifications outside of work hours and let people know when you are taking time for yourself. Setting healthy work-life boundaries is essential when working from home.


Making an effort to socialize and stay connected with others is key to combating isolation. With some creativity and commitment, you can find fulfilling ways to interact while working remotely.


Creating a Dedicated Workspace


Working from home can be challenging if you don't have a proper workspace set up. It's important to create a dedicated work area in your home to allow you to be productive and minimize distractions.


The first step is designating a separate room or area of your home specifically for work. Don't work in your bedroom or other living areas, as it can be difficult to relax and unwind in those spaces if you associate them too much with work. Having an office room or converted closet/nook provides separation between your work and personal life.



a desk with a laptop, notebook, mouse, plant, lamp, mug, books, and tablet in an office looking out a window


Invest in a proper desk and office chair designed for long hours of sitting. Avoid working from your couch or bed, as this can lead to back pain, poor posture, and less productivity. An adjustable desk allows you to sit or stand throughout the day, while an ergonomic chair provides necessary back support.


Finally, do what you can to reduce distractions in your workspace. Turn off notifications, close unneeded apps on your computer, silence your phone, and shut the door to keep out background noise. Some decorative elements like plants can make the space more enjoyable without being distracting. Just be mindful of clutter that can pile up and impede your focus.


Creating a dedicated work environment at home helps maintain a professional mindset while working remotely. Having proper equipment and minimal distractions allows you to do your best work.


Maintaining Work-Life Balance


Working from home can make it hard to maintain boundaries between work and personal life. Without the commute to transition into and out of work mode, the lines can easily become blurred. It's important to be intentional about creating work-life balance while working remotely.


- Keep regular work hours and stick to a routine as much as possible. Having set hours for work and leisure will help maximize productivity and prevent burnout.

- Take proper lunch breaks. Don't eat at your desk - step away and give your mind a chance to recharge.

- At the end of the workday, change out of your work clothes. This signals to your brain that it's time to switch gears.

- Make time for exercise, even if it's just a daily walk. Physical activity is proven to relieve stress and improve focus.

- Set boundaries around working hours and make sure to fully unplug outside of work time. Don't check emails constantly outside of work. Give your full presence and attention to your personal life.


Staying disciplined about maintaining work-life balance will ensure you avoid fatigue and ultimately become more engaged, productive, and happy in both your professional and personal realms.


Staying Productive and Motivated


Working from home allows for more flexibility but also presents some unique challenges when it comes to staying productive and motivated. Here are some helpful tips:


- Set specific and achievable goals - Break down large projects into smaller tasks that you can tackle one at a time. Having clear goals each day will give you a sense of purpose and progress.


- Make prioritized to-do lists - Write out all the tasks you hope to accomplish each day and place them in order of importance. Checking things off your list will give you a sense of accomplishment.


- Limit distractions - Turn off notifications, and close extra browser tabs and apps that aren't immediately needed. Reduce interruptions by letting others know when you are working on focused tasks.


- Change up your routine - If you are feeling unproductive, take a quick break, go for a short walk, listen to energizing music, or work in a different spot. Adding variety can help spark motivation.


- Schedule rewards - After completing an unpleasant or complex task, reward yourself with something you enjoy, like watching an episode of a show or having your favorite snack. Using small rewards helps maintain momentum.


- Stay connected - Loneliness can sap productivity. Schedule remote coffee breaks, virtual lunch dates, or quick phone calls to combat isolation. Interacting with others provides a needed mood boost.


Making a few changes to your daily schedule and work environment can go a long way in helping you stay engaged and inspired while working solo. Don't hesitate to experiment to find what works best for you. The key is customizing your approach to maximize personal productivity.


Ergonomics


When working from home, it's important to set up your workspace properly to avoid pain and discomfort. An ergonomic workspace can make a big difference in your comfort and productivity.


Desk and Chair


a standking desk in a room with monitors on it and a laptop in front of a window

Choose a desk and chair that allow you to sit comfortably with your feet flat on the floor and thighs parallel to the ground. Your knees should be at a 90-120 degree angle when seated. Armrests on your chair should support your forearms so they rest at a 90-degree angle.


Make sure your desk height allows your elbows to stay close to your body and relaxed at your sides. Your wrists should be straight and parallel to the floor when typing.


Use an external keyboard and mouse so you don't have to reach or strain to type. Place them at elbow height near the front edge of the desk within easy reach.


Computer Screen


Position the computer screen an arm's length away, with the top of the screen at or slightly below eye level. This helps avoid neck strain from looking down at your screen all day. Need a better way to mount your computer screens? Check out these monitor stands.


two monitor stands with monitors mounted on them

Reduce glare from windows and lights that can cause eye strain. If possible, place your desk so the computer screen is perpendicular to the windows. Consider using an anti-glare screen filter if needed.


Posture and Breaks


Sit upright with your back against your chair, feet flat on the floor, and shoulders relaxed. Avoid hunching or leaning forward.


Take regular breaks to stand up, stretch, and move around. Set reminders if needed. Microbreaks every 30-60 minutes can refresh your body so you avoid discomfort from sitting too long.


Making simple ergonomic adjustments can go a long way in creating a workspace that keeps you comfortable and prevents body strain.


Self-Care Basics and Improving Wellbeing


Working remotely can make it harder to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Simple self-care habits like eating nutritious foods, exercising, getting enough sleep, and taking breaks can make a big difference in your mental wellbeing.


Healthy eating - With the kitchen nearby, it's easy to snack mindlessly or eat comfort foods. Meal prep healthy recipes on your days off so you have nutritious options on hand during the workweek. Stock up on healthy snacks like nuts, fruits, yogurt, and vegetables. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.


Exercise - Without a commute or walking between meetings, you need to be more intentional about exercise. Take short breaks for stretching or bodyweight exercises. Go for a walk or run outside if you can. Follow along with workout videos. Get an under-the-desk treadmill. Schedule exercise time like you would any other important appointment.


bottle of neurozoom with plants, leaves and fruit around it

Healthy Supplements - Incorporating healthy supplements into your routine can be a valuable strategy for enhancing both energy levels and mental clarity. Nutrient-rich supplements, such as vitamins, minerals, and adaptogens, provide essential support to the body's metabolic processes and cognitive functions. For example, omega-3 fatty acids contribute to brain health, while B-vitamins play a crucial role in energy production. Additionally, adaptogenic herbs like rhodiola and ashwagandha help the body adapt to stress, promoting mental resilience and focus. When used responsibly and in conjunction with a balanced diet and lifestyle, these supplements can optimize overall well-being, fostering sustained energy and sharpened mental acuity throughout the day. Check out NeuroZoom, a fantastic supplement to boost mental clarity and increase energy for those long days.


Sleep - Get at least 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. Keep your bedroom dark and cool. Avoid screens before bedtime. Establish a calming pre-bedtime routine like taking a bath, reading, or listening to soothing music.


Take breaks - Build in microbreaks throughout the day to rest your eyes, stand up and move around, and grab a snack or drink. Take a real lunch break away from your desk. Schedule mental health days off occasionally. Breaks boost your productivity and improve wellbeing.


Mental Health Resources


Working remotely can take a toll on mental health. If you find yourself struggling, know that you're not alone and help is available. Consider utilizing some of these mental health resources:


- Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs): Many companies offer free and confidential mental health services through an EAP. These programs connect employees to counselors, therapists, support groups and other mental health resources. Contact your HR department to learn about EAP services available to you.


- Online Therapy: Online therapy has grown enormously in recent years. It provides the flexibility of therapy sessions via video chat, phone, or messaging. Leading options include Talkspace, BetterHelp, Amwell, and MDLive. Services range from text-based support to live video sessions with licensed therapists.


- Mental Health Apps: Wellness apps can be a helpful tool for managing anxiety, stress, depression, and more. Top-rated options provide techniques like meditation, mindfulness, mood tracking, goal setting, and online peer support. Some examples are Calm, Headspace, Sanvello, and Superbetter. Many are free or low-cost.


If your mental health is seriously impacting your work and quality of life, seek help from a mental health professional. Prioritize your mental wellbeing during this difficult time. The resources above make therapy and support more accessible.


Conclusion


Working remotely and in isolation can present various challenges to our mental wellbeing. However, with some planning and self-care, we can overcome them.


To sum up, some key strategies include:


- Creating a dedicated workspace and daily routine to clearly separate work and personal time

- Making an effort to stay connected with coworkers through video calls and digital channels

- Having regular check-ins with managers about workload and expectations

- Practicing self-care through exercise, healthy eating and supplements, meditation, and other relaxing activities

- Reaching out for mental health support if needed


Even though working remotely has its difficulties, it also provides an opportunity. We can take control of our environment and habits to promote productivity as well as mental wellbeing.


The most important thing is recognizing when we need help and being proactive about our self-care. With some adjustments, we can learn to thrive in a remote working world while maintaining positive mental health.


In conclusion, our mental wellness depends on making mindful choices each day. By implementing some of the suggestions here into a consistent routine, we can stay healthy and balanced despite the isolation of working from home. Focus on what you can control, take care of yourself, and don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. We're all in this together!


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