The decentralized work environment has become somewhat of the norm for businesses across North America. While there are certainly perks to this flexible work set up, the psychological effects of long-term distance from colleagues in addition to a static environment has resulted in the increase of troubling feeling of isolation fatigue and loneliness.
An Igloo report found that 70% of employees working remotely feel left out of their workplace. In the 2020: Future of Remote Work report, surveys showed that 46.7% of remote workers found isolation is their top challenge. The impact of isolation on staff should not go overlooked, after all, people require socialization by nature. If concerns of building isolation fatigue from remote workers go unaddressed, chronic loneliness can quickly snowball into disengagement, subpar performance, and burnout.
Here’s what you can do to help your team combat isolation fatigue.
Loneliness is a direct result of a lack of social interaction, so seeing faces helps. Considering people spend most of their days at work interacting with colleagues and customers, the switch to remote work can be a huge culture shock. Suddenly the number of daily interactions with others plummets, often leaving people with the feeling that they’re out of sight and thus out of mind.
Encouraging regular video calls on a weekly or bi-monthly basis helps reinforce connectivity across internal teams. While it doesn’t completely replicate the social layout of an office, it gives remote workers consistent and frequent access to their colleagues in a relatively casual way, helping to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Making the decision to stop working can be more difficult for remote workers than in-office staff because there is no sense of the departure from the office at the end of the day. As a result, 22% of people working remotely struggle with unplugging from work. Often the increase in productivity organizations realize with a decentralized team is really the result of employees working extra hours to meet goals and preform to a higher standard they think they have to reach at all costs because they’re at home. A survey found that when working remotely, employees worked an average of 1.4 days more every month or 16.8 days more every year.
Allow Frequent Breaking
Giving remote teams the freedom to take frequent short breaks and clearly establishing an adaptive policy can help employees break up the mundane to avoid burnout that can come with quickly surmounting loneliness at the home office.
In a 2020 report, approximately 39% of remote workers deemed communication and collaboration their biggest challenge, while 35.44% additionally cited “maintaining motivation” as a top challenge. If ill-equipped with communication and collaboration tools, employees are likely to experience a dip in motivation and engagement as a direct result.
To counter isolation, leverage a unified communication platform that connects decentralized teams to a central hub that facilitates communication and collaboration through shared platforms such as instant messaging and document sharing or editing platforms. In implementing a software system that facilitates communication from anywhere, everyone on the team will be connected in real time, minimizing information blockades, uncertainties, and the feeling of being left out.
Ask Your Employees
When management takes the time to ask employees how they’re doing within the remote working set up, they can collect opinions and feedback on how to alter the system to be most effective. Additionally, by reaching out individually, it helps to make remote workers feel seen and heard despite the lack of proximity.
Remember that isolation is cause by physical conditions, so when worked at diligently it can be altered to alleviate loneliness and minimize stress.