Due to increasing technological advancements, a lot us are finding ourselves working from home, more commonly known as working remotely. This article will explore the extent to which the laptop is replacing colleagues and what this means for the future of the workplace.
The Most Connected Yet Disconnected Generation
The 20th century saw some tremendous shifts take place in the dynamic of the traditional workplace, most notably the influx for the first time of women into industries that were once dominated by men. Today in the twenty-first century, the workplace is continually evolving especially as many of us are opting to work from home which brings with it, like anything else, its pros and cons. Despite being the most connected generation than ever before thanks to the rise of social media, experts have also coined us as the most disconnected generation as many of us have lost the ability to connect in the absence of technology. Therefore, this issue is only set to get worse over the next few years as workers start to leave the traditional work environment and pursue new jobs that can be completed from home which will consequently diminish daily interaction.
The Rise of Remote Working and Self-Employment
The ability to work full-time from home in the comfort of your pyjamas on a drizzly Monday morning while the rest of the working world groggily commutes to offices, for many, sounds like an attractive prospect. However, a lot of people soon discover that while the route of self-employment boasts many advantages, such as flexible working hours and being your own boss, it is also contributing to a loneliness epidemic. Those who work remotely can find themselves being the one person in the house every day. Spending such a prolonged amount of time alone and having no co-workers to bounce ideas off makes it extremely hard to connect with others and breeds a sense of isolation.
As technology continues to develop and more jobs can be carried out from home, the number of individuals working from home is set to rise. Therefore, the current emphasis on placing a high focus on work productivity and less on interaction will have to change as people will begin to crave face-to-face interaction.
A survey carried out by Aldermore revealed that nearly
of self-employed people felt lonely since becoming their own boss
The Effects of Workplace Loneliness on Health
Today a combination of factors, such as technology, heavy workloads and even social anxiety, are responsible for isolating colleagues and contributing to this lonely people epidemic. It’s recognised that a critical aspect of going to work is to experience human connection and receive recognition for the work that you do. However, when this is lost employees can feel isolated and struggle to find their purpose.
A recent study carried out by the British Mental Health charity ‘Mind’ has shown that 60% of employees in the UK have felt lonely at work.
This startling statistic shows just how prevalent the issue is and that as well as loneliness affecting those working from home, individuals who work in offices also suffer from feelings of isolation. Workplace loneliness is particularly prevalent in cities such as London, New York and the American state California.
It is common especially for freelance workers to suffer from anxiety and depression as they spend a large portion of the working week alone. Being out of the traditional workplace can over a long period lead to individuals losing their confidence and feeling isolated from their peers. As well as having an adverse effect on mental health, loneliness also brings with it a series of health issues which can range from a standard cold to a serious issue such as heart disease.
Studies have shown that the risk of social isolation to your health is equivalent to
cigarettes a day
How Employers & Freelancers Can Combat Workplace Loneliness
To combat this growing epidemic of workplace loneliness that is only set to get worse, employers must take responsibility to try to put in place strategies to encourage social interaction amongst their employees. To achieve this, employers need to utilise technology such as Skype to enable remote colleagues to remain involved in team meetings so that they know they have a support network that is just a Skype call away. Scheduling something as simple as a phone call with employees can also help to make them feel less isolated.
For freelances, it can also be a good idea to investigate working in a co-working space which means working alongside others in a shared area. Co-working not only encourages social connections and gives individuals the opportunity to discuss work-related issues but it also helps to define the difference between work life and social life. This is something that many people who work from home struggle to differentiate between. Over the last few years, there has also been an increase in the number of apps used in the hope of finding new best friends and making business connections. It can be expected that as time goes on the popularity of such apps will increase as people look to expand their social circles.
While traditional office environments still tend to dominate the workspace, open plan offices are becoming more familiar in the hope of creating a more dynamic workspace that is easier to move around in and encourages creativity. Companies in recent years have made a conscious move to re-design the layout of offices also with the intention of improving social interaction.
Employers moving forward will need to place a heavier emphasis on establishing more team-building activities, so that workers have the opportunity to build connections with their colleagues in the workplace. Not only will such moves improve the morale of the workforce, but it will also lead to higher levels of productivity.
As time goes on and more attention is devoted to the topic of workplace loneliness, businesses and organisations will hopefully invest more time and effort into putting strategies in place for employees and freelance workers to encourage social connections. Starting more conversations about workplace loneliness will help individuals to feel less alone and stamp out the stigma.