TMCnet Feature
April 23, 2021

Limiting WFH Loneliness: How Technology Can Help You to Become Digitally Sociable

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s safe to say that the corporate landscape as we once knew it has drastically evolved to adapt to strict social distancing regulations and adhere to important health and safety protocols. In a new era of office work, many employees are still learning to adjust to a remote working style. Faced with new challenges every day, work from home dwellers have had to learn to schedule their own working day, monitor their own productivity and most importantly face their 9-5 within the isolation of their own four walls.

From couch computers to fluffy slippers and loungewear, working from home is glossed with an idyllic exterior. For the more introverted worker or a busy parent with multiple priorities, managing your own schedule can seem like the dream. However, with 25-30% of the global workforce estimated to swap the office for the couch by the end of 2021, working from home doesn’t come without its drawbacks.

(Source (News - Alert): Statista)

While a few businesses are itching to see their workforce back in the office, many are now making the permanent decision to work remotely for the foreseeable future. As you can see in the graph above, new data released by Upwork has revealed that 23% of corporate companies plan to still work from home in the next five years. That is a 10% increase in WFH statistics in just one year, proving to be the largest jump in the last decade. As the potential shift is estimated to save US employers over $30 Billion a day by reducing the amount of in-office staff, it’s no surprise that a large number of businesses are jumping on the new wave of WFH initiatives.

As working from home becomes the new norm, many office natives are struggling to adapt. From a remote onboarding process to a lonely 9-5 experience, many employees are wrestling with their mental health. Amongst major social restrictions, feelings of isolation have become common amongst the remote workforce.

As we delve into the impacts of lockdown on corporate workers, read on to find out why WFH isolation could be affecting your productivity and working success, and how you can help limit loneliness by using the evolution of technology to your advantage.

How Can Loneliness Hinder WFH Success?

Loneliness can pose as just as much of a risk to our mental health as both anxiety and depression. According to a mental health study conducted nine months into the pandemic, 1 in 4 people have experienced feelings of loneliness during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Those of us who have swapped the office banter for a singular screen have suffered some of the largest detrimental impacts of the pandemic. With many claiming that remote work has left them feeling both isolated and unmotivated, it’s no wonder that productivity is falling amongst employees and WFH success is taking a turn for the worse.

Impacts Of A Lonely Brain

Brain studies suggest that subcortical brain regions that power our productivity such as the ventral striatum, are stimulated when we received social rewards. As we spend more time with one another, whether that is virtual or in-person, our sociality drives this part of our brain, causing us to feel happy and motivated as we complete daily tasks.

As naturally social creatures, when we are confronted with loneliness, our brains react by activating the regions associated with stress and despondency. When faced with long term periods of loneliness such as working from home, especially extroverted thinkers can suffer from high levels of anxiety and depression as a response.

How Does This Affect Our Productivity?

Increased levels of anxiety and depression, brought on by the impacts of WFH isolation can largely affect our work-related success.

As suggested by a Health Shield study, “Mental health issues such as anxiety can cause someone to lose concentration, making it very difficult to multi-task and carry out day-to-day work activities. An employee’s stamina could also be affected, making task deadlines difficult to meet.”

As remote work becomes more prevalent in a large proportion of the corporate world, an increase in WFH loneliness could have a knock-on impact on employee welfare and company success. To prioritise your own mental health while working from home, it’s important to utilise in-house social aids. From your computer to your smartphone, the technological revolution has made socialising possible from the comfort of your bedsheets. In order to remain productive while out of the office, it’s time to use technology to become digitally sociable.

How Can Technology Help You To Become More Digitally Sociable During WFH?

(Source: Statista)

In the wake of the pandemic, both corporate workers and students have been forced to retire from social office spaces and adjust to a home-based workplace set up. A report by IDC stated that the ongoing corporate and social ramifications of Covid-19 have propelled the global PC market, with remote workers leading the drive in sales.

With an increase in just over 10 million sales in the last year alone, it’s safe to assume that the need for technology has escalated amongst a work-from-home population.

The question is, is technology aiding more than just our working habits in 2021? As many remain isolated from Monday to Friday within their own four walls, technology is helping remote workers to remain a part of social groups both in and out of office hours. As we still see in-person social restrictions in place for an ongoing future, read on to find out how you can become more digitally sociable while working from home.

Keep Connected To A Virtual Office Environment

Keeping connected with your colleagues has never been more important when working from home. For the team to see remote success, remaining in the virtual loop improves widespread company communication, project efficiency and overall productivity as staff members are able to collaborate and converse in the same way they would in the office.

Video Calls

One way to utilise the evolution of technology to its full potential is to increase the amount of face-to-face interaction between colleagues. Scheduling regular video calls and conferences humanise the remote working experience and reduce symptoms of lockdown loneliness. Simply being able to read employee expressions and mannerisms, colleagues can connect with each other and form stronger working relationships. Installing platforms such as Microsoft (News - Alert) Teams and Zoom for your virtual office can drastically improve workplace wellbeing.

During the pandemic alone, the video conferencing platform, Zoom rose to fame amongst many corporate businesses, counting more than 300 million daily participants in virtual meetings. Whether it is for social team quizzes or large team brainstorming sessions, this technological tool is a must-have WFH essential.

Communication Channels

For the camera-shy, internal comms channels are also fantastic loneliness limiters that can promote organic socialisation amongst staff members. With the ability to mirror natural conversation, having a constant string of connection between colleagues decreases feelings of isolation.

Popular communication channels such as Slack have risen up as must-have workplace tools as employers opt for a future remote working scheme.

(Source: Statista)

According to a recent report, Slack has acquired a customer growth of nearly 35% since the onset of the pandemic, accelerating towards the top of the business tool market. With the ability to maintain multiple strings of conversation, enable gifs and videos and send across important documents, this technological extension transforms working from home for a digital native workforce.

Use Social Media To Your Advantage While Working Remotely

Utilising the evolution of technology during your working week is a step towards a more connected future for those of us who work from home.

Remaining connected to both colleagues and friends has never been easier thanks to the social media revolution. With smartphone users now able to access a range of platforms dedicated to connecting their audience using video, audio and instant messages, humans no longer need to be face-face to form a strong connection.

53% of the population are connected to at least one form of social media, which has only increased since the onset of the pandemic. Investing time in digital activities such as listening to podcasts, playing online games and creating and uploading videos is a great way to utilise your access to technology. For remote workers who struggle to build social connections due to their isolating working conditions, the land of social media doesn’t have to be scary, with over 3.9 billion users, it’s never been easier to find social pages and fandom groups online that you can connect with for social gratification.

The Future Of Social Technology

From AR assistants to screen enhancing glasses, technology continues to adapt to improve the working from home experience. With remote working conditions here to stay, there is no doubt that sociality during WFH will continue to improve as technology advances. For instance, regular glasses that you normally shop online or at an eyeglasses store could soon incorporate AR technology that would allow employees to work in enhanced reality.

The World Economic Forum has begun to look towards a socially enhanced digital future in the form of social robots. Designed to help isolated workers feel less lonely, social connection robotics could be a new WFH technology in the making. Research suggests that “people conversationally engage with a humanoid robot to a similar extent as another person, and more so than with a voice assistant like Alexa or Siri.” Therefore, as new advances in mobile brain imaging technologies emerge, workers could soon have their own reliable robot to keep them company.

Until then, the best remedy for lockdown loneliness while working from home is to stay connected. Whether you're a social media native or a Zoom quiz master, using technology to aid your adaption to a new working world is the key to a happier and healthier 9-5.

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