During the COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions on social activity have led to many people working from home regularly for the first time. While working from home does typically create more time with your family and more flexibility with your schedule, there are some unique challenges that many people find they encounter as they start to work remotely.
Working from home can be disruptive to relationships, even potentially your relationship with those that you live with. While it may seem counterintuitive that working at home can be disruptive to relationships, many people find that the reduced structure of their work process and the mixing of work with normal living can make it more difficult to maintain their relationships with those close to them.
Working from home also affects the way that you interact with your coworkers. In a normal job environment, people will have multiple small non-work related interactions throughout the day. This could involve small talk as you perform a work task with a colleague or a side conversation with another coworker. Coworkers also often engage in after-work activities or other social interactions outside of the normal work process. Not being present with your coworkers and only interacting over conference calls can lead to distancing between yourself and your coworkers.
Because of the unique challenges that working from home presents, you may find that you need to take more purposeful actions to stay connected with other people. There are some basic principles that you can follow to keep connected with others that you may be distanced from and stay close to those around you.
One of the reasons that working from home can be disruptive to relationships is that there is a change from your normal work-life balance. Normally, work happens at work, and normal life happens at home. When you are working from home, normal life activities may bleed into your work time, making you less productive. This can be especially true if you have younger children. As normal life disrupts your workflow, it can take longer to get work done, and you may find yourself extending work activities into the time you would normally spend at home, disrupting time spent with your family.
Keeping work and normal life separate is important, both for your productivity and for your relationships with others. If you can, it is good to have a set-apart workspace where you can have privacy. Keeping a clear boundary between what is work time and what is family time can help you to keep the two separate, leading to more quality time with your family that does not disrupt your work.
One-on-one interactions with your coworkers will become rarer as you work from home. Most remote interactions with coworkers are done by email or by teleconference meetings. Using exclusively these means of communication removes the small, personal interactions that you would normally have with your colleagues. To replace the loss of these personal forms of communication, you should consider taking the time to call your colleagues individually, just to connect. One-on-one communications will help you to stay better connected with your coworkers.
While staying connected with your coworkers is important, it is also important to keep up relationships with friends and family that you do not live with. Making regular time to call these people will help you not to forget to stay connected in the changing environment caused by working from home.
An essential part of helping to keep work and normal life separate is to have a dedicated workspace. Not only does having a dedicated workspace help to keep you more organized and prevent the mixing of your work and family life, but it also provides a psychological distinction between work and normal life. Your brain naturally associates places with activities, and it will be easier for your brain to associate your living area with spending time with your family if you have a distinct space apart from your living area that you perform your work in. Having a distinct space for work can also help your family to understand when you are working and should not be disturbed and when you are free and able to interact with them without it being an unwelcome distraction.
While having a dedicated workspace is important, having a dedicated time to work is equally important. Your family will need to understand that there are times when you are working and should not be disturbed. Having delineated times will also help them to understand when you will be free from work and able to spend time with you. This will help them to better connect with you during the times you have for them and to allow you to be more productive while you are working from home.
Staying connected with other people while working from home is difficult. Not only is it harder for you to stay connected with others, but it is also more difficult for others to stay connected with you as they deal with the difficulties of their new work situation.
It is normal for there to be some degree of difficulty in staying connected with others, however, there are times when you may come to feel socially isolated. Social isolation can lead to depression or other mental health conditions. Some people may turn to addictive behaviors to help them cope with social isolation. While it is normal to feel like you are less connected, it is never normal to feel isolated and like you have no one to help you or connect with you.
If you are feeling severely isolated, and it is affecting your mood or your mental health, then you should consider seeking professional help. Our team is always available to help you when you are feeling isolated or discouraged from the lack of social connection. If you are feeling isolated, reach out to one of our caring team members who will take the time to help you through your difficult time and support you in creating a plan to avoid continued social isolation and to stay healthy.