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Working from home loneliness is a real thing, but here’s what to do about it

PHOTOGRAPHY BY TED MIN

WORDS BY ALYCE GREER

You’re not alone. Well, you are, but here’s how to feel less alone.

I’ve spent most of my career working from home. I was working from home long before it was a thing. Long before it got all famous and became #WFH

Working from home used to be so humble. A quiet way of life favoured by creatives, a few remote workers and those writing a book. Not anymore. Thanks to COVID-19, working from home has become the new normal for millions of Australians.  


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While I relocated to an office a couple of years ago after reaching my WFH breaking point, I clearly remember the conversations I’d have with people during that time (friends, family, the postman, the barista; anyone that would talk to me, basically). 

It usually went something like this: 

Barista: “What are you up to today? Have the day off?”
Me: “Oh, actually I work from home.”
Wide-eyed barista: “Really! Wow, that’s so cool. I’d love to work from home. I’d wear pyjamas all day, watch TV and take afternoon naps. Do you get so distracted working from home?” 

I never did get distracted. In fact (and I think the rest of the population will now agree with me on this one) I get way more done at home. There’s no water cooler chat, multiple coffee runs, extended lunch breaks or annoying colleagues visiting your desk to ask you equally annoying questions. 

The issue for me was far worse than getting distracted by midday Ellen reruns or my freshly made bed: it was the loneliness. Now that we’ve all had a taste of what WFH is really like, the downsides of being a freelancer or remote worker are apparent to everyone. It’s clear that working from home is not all rainbows and lollipops; it can be an incredibly isolating and lonely experience that makes you more socially awkward with every passing moment.  

At the time of writing this, 50 per cent of employees in Melbourne are allowed to return to the office, but it’s unclear when that will increase to 100 per cent. Regardless, most of us are still working from home in some capacity, whether it’s because we’re on a rotating roster, we have to wear a mask while sitting at our desk (no thanks) or we’ve gotten so socially awkward we can’t bear the thought of making small talk with colleagues over the Nespresso machine ever again. 

The good news is that we’re not in a hard lockdown (for now) which means we can do things to break up our day and interact with more people. And I strongly recommend you do, even if you can’t be bothered. Here are some things you can do to cure your WFH-induced case of the lonelies. 

Lock in a cheeky mid-weeky 

Also known as a mid-week shake-up. By this, I mean plan to meet your partner or friends every Wednesday night (I will also allow Tuesday or Thursday) for dinner, a movie, drinks or sport. Just something. Especially if you live on your own, having that catch-up will get you through the first half of the week. Then when you wake up on Thursday, you’ll realise it’s almost the weekend again. It’s magic!

Create a better morning routine, FFS  

Sorry, but if you keep waking up 30 mins before you start work, you’re going to get very sad, very fast. Get in the habit of waking up early enough that you can go for a walk or do some exercise, shower, get dressed and grab a coffee. I promise you’ll be in a way better mood when you sit down at your desk (aka your kitchen table). Of course, this one takes some willpower, but once you’ve formed the habit you won’t look back. 

Take advantage of your new-found freedom 

You’ve always wanted some flexibility when it comes to your nine to five, and now you have it. Use it wisely. Take regular breaks outside (if you have to, set an alarm). Eat your lunch in the closest park. Go for short walks. Buy a coffee. Get your nails done on your lunch break. Do anything, anywhere but your house. You might even see some real-life people out there. Oooo.

Get yourself a hobby 

Did you start learning a language in lockdown? Take up painting? Find a new talent for drinking wine? Great – time to take those hobbies out of the lounge room. Now that we can do fun things again (albeit in limited numbers) it’s the perfect time to sharpen your skill, and interact with more people. Look for in-person (or at the very least, Zoom) classes, workshops and meet-ups. Some social interaction with strangers will do you good. 

Become the communication leader 

If you rely on friends and colleagues to make all the plans, you won’t leave the house. It’s not that they don’t care, they’re just busy (like you) so you need to take it upon yourself to be the initiator. In your personal life, this might look like texting friends at the start of each week to see who’s free for a weekend catch-up or – wait for it – a cheeky mid-weeky. At work, maybe you plan a Monday morning virtual coffee with your office clique. It can be a secret from your other colleagues. 

Work from somewhere… anywhere

When you work from home for too long, you start to forget what it’s like to work in the office. You get attached to your new routine (especially the part where you don’t have to get ready or commute) and it just feels easier to stay put until life returns to ‘normal’. But trust me, this helps, even if it takes some effort. If you can, work from the office a couple of days a week – the bonus is that you’ll appreciate your WFH days so much more. If not, hop to a couple of cafes to break up your week. Do try to order a dish though, they hate it when you sit on a latte for four hours. 

Adopt a pet

It goes without saying that this option is only for those who are serious about welcoming a pet into their life and are willing and able to look after them looooong after your original life has resumed. But of all the tips, this one is my favourite. Pets are amazing company, and by far the best work colleague. Plus they won’t steal your leftover pasta out of the fridge like Paul in IT.

Alyce is a contributing writer for Fashion Journal and the director and head writer at Bossy, a Melbourne-based copywriting and content studio. You can find Bossy here and here.

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