This month, we are looking into the world of working from home, the Covid-19 pandemic certainly changed the world of work both here in New Zealand and around the world.
In our weekly blogs, we will look at how to avoid isolation, creating work life balances and eating and exercising in this new world.
Research by recruitment experts Hays New Zealand found that 60 per cent of employees in New Zealand would like to work from home more often after the pandemic than before.
But it’s not without its drawbacks – in one survey of 1000 remote workers, almost half reported experiencing feelings of loneliness.
So how do we enjoy the advantages of working from home for some or all of the week and avoid social isolation? We’ve found some strategies you can try.
Work at least one or two days outside of your home. That’s easy if your organisation has an office you can work from a few days a week. But if your entire workforce has gone remote or you work for yourself, you will have to be a bit more creative. Look into a co-lab or shared office space. These are becoming more common across our cities and towns and there are a range of price options. Alternatively try putting a post on your neighbourhood social media page to see if there are other remote workers in your area that might want to share an office or may even have space in their home office to allow collaborative working once or twice a week. Some libraries are set up to act as a base for remote workers and other people find basing themselves in a café one or two days a week works well.
Make the most of your flexible schedule to meet up with people during the day – you could schedule lunch with a friend while their kids are at school, or arrange to walk with someone from your professional network so you are exercising and brainstorming at the same time. Or go to an off-peak exercise class at your gym – working out with other people is another way to replace time with colleagues. If you can’t get out of the house, at least make sure you take a break and use it to call a friend to catch up on their news and have a laugh.
Make plans for weekday evenings. When you work in an office, meetings and lunchroom catch ups mean you have often had enough people time by the end of the day, and some solitude seems very appealing. But if you are on your own all day, you need to make the effort to socialise outside of work hours. Having a plan to meet friends for dinner or a movie ensures you switch off the computer and get out of the house.
Join a business or professional networking group to replace face-to-face time with colleagues. These can be set up by industry or based on location - Business Network International (BNI), has chapters all over New Zealand. There are several networking groups aimed solely at women including Venus Businesswomen and She Owns It, I am a member of this fabulous group. You can find groups that meet in person or those that meet online.
Ask your manager to organise regular face-to-face get togethers for your team to allow for in-person collaboration and ensure you stay connected. Work out what cadence will suit your team – it might be weekly, fortnightly or monthly. It doesn’t have to be all about work – a fun, team-building activity will also help mitigate feelings of isolation and keep team culture strong.
Use online or phone chats to stay in touch with your colleagues regularly rather than always sending emails. Not only are you seeing a friendly face or hearing a friendly voice, talking through issues or ideas can help avoid the frustration that can occur when written emails are misunderstood.
Look at what you can do in your local community to meet people midweek. If you go for a walk in your neighbourhood at about the same time each day, you will start to run into the same people. Be brave and start a conversation – even if it’s not the beginning of a beautiful friendship, it’s an opportunity for some human contact. Other easy options are heading to your local café for a coffee each day and making it a challenge to talk to one stranger, or volunteering at a local op shop or charity for a couple of hours a week.
Consider getting a pet. A furry friend can be great for easing feelings of loneliness and if you are working from home, it will be easier to walk the dog or let the cat sit on your lap during a meeting.
Look for ways to boost your mood. It might be setting up your workstation in a sunny area of the house, going outside to enjoy your mid-morning coffee and soak up nature, buying some fragrant flowers or a gorgeous, scented candle for your desk or treating yourself to a muffin from your favourite café. If you are feeling positive and uplifted, you are less likely to be impacted by feelings of loneliness and isolation.
For further reading, this is an excellent book, The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Study on Happiness by Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz
Next weeks blog: Creating boundaries when you work from home