The perks of remote work are plentiful: No commute, no dress code, increased engagement and productivity, flexible hours, etc. And, employers across the country have taken note of this work-from-home upside. Data from the US Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the US saw a whopping 159 percent increase in remote work from 2005 to 2017. Another report found that 83 percent of US businesses have introduced a flexible workspace policy, or are planning to adopt one. The numbers tell a story that remote work isn’t just the way of the future, but perhaps the way of the now.
However, remote work isn’t without its pain points. According to the 2020 State Of Remote Work study from AngelList and Buffer, remote workers ranked loneliness—alongside collaboration and communication—as their biggest struggle overall. As remote work becomes increasingly common and leveraged as a tool to retain quality talent and offer greater flexibility to employees, workers should have transparency into some of its drawbacks, and primed with ways to navigate them.
To start, we spoke to countless freelance and remote workers to uncover tried and tested ways to combat loneliness and communication challenges. Ahead, we’ll share what’s worked so you’ll better know how to embrace remote work and feel like part of a community—even when you’re working independently.
“As a web designer, I’ve definitely dealt with loneliness and feelings of isolation. My best piece of advice is to get out there! Go to the gym, go to the grocery store, make connections. You’ll be inspired and more motivated to do your work. With that, my biggest struggle was feeling that going out or meeting new people was disrupting my work time. But meeting people and hanging with friends can be just as crucial to the success of your business. They’re all connections that you can have fun with, get inspired by, and potentially get new work from.”
“I got a dog! So helpful to have a snuggly friend that is always there. I also have several plants that bring life and energy to my apartment.”
“Having been a freelance writer for several decades, I find that FaceTiming or Skyping with clients or friends is not enough to cure the occasional solitary blues. As a result, I try to find in-person networking groups. It’s not always easy to find your fit, but with a short stack of business cards and a good attitude, even us extroverted introverts can manage to make a goal of meeting a few people and remembering a few names. I also do speaking presentations for business groups on how to write their own profiles and business blogs, and inevitably pick up more work this way. It’s a win-win. Can’t beat face-to-face encounters.”
“I make networking events part of my job. Girlboss, LinkedIn, and Facebook help me meet new friends and others who I can bounce ideas off of. These are very powerful tools and help with isolation.”
“I don’t think about it. I put the focus on what I’m writing, and sometimes I’ll listen to a podcast, a playlist, or sign in to community.girlboss.com.”
“I put together an online group that acts as the digital HQ for my business, where we interact just as we would in office. We don’t just talk about work; we also share inspirational videos and celebrate Girlboss moments, birthdays, and plan team retreats.
I’m quite old fashioned and like to meet people face-to-face, so I recommend joining a local professionals group, co-working space, your local chamber of commerce, or getting involved in the community. I do all of the above and also enjoy going to various conferences, like HerCampus. They’re all great ways to meet new people and learn about events you might be interested in.”
“I’ve been on my own for five years now. To combat loneliness, I work out of a co-working space as often as I can. If I can’t get into the city to do so, working out of my local coffee shop helps. Just having the energy of people around me is enough. I also make sure my life outside of work is filled with personal connections—I spend a lot of time with family and friends… Even if I invite someone to go to spin, it’s a connection and it is less time-consuming than committing to dinner.”
“It’s always a good idea to meet up with fellow freelancers for coffee or drinks to go over freelancing woes and help each other with current projects. One friend and I also have standing work-dates where we hole up in a library together and work on our individual projects, much like study-dates in college.”
“Get involved in a hobby or passion with a group of people that doesn’t involve work. I recently joined a run club and connecting with this community of ambitious women and having an outlet that makes me get out of the house AND out of my comfort zone has changed everything for me both personally and professionally.
It’s easy to get wrapped up working around the clock alone at home… but that leads to burnout and loneliness. Now that I have passion, discipline, and a support system for something not related to work, working from home is so much more enjoyable and effective.”