Working from Home and Loneliness

by Gemma Smith

You miss a large part of human interaction by working from home. If you think about it, a full-time role is often Monday to Friday for 35 hours plus a week. One study by Eurostat claimed the UK average number of working hours to be 42.5, whereas OECD data shows 38.4 hours a week. Whatever the number is, we spend a long time at work interacting with colleagues and being around other people.

You most probably enjoy your time with work colleagues. Co-workers and management are a major push or pull factor on whether you stay in a role. You tend to like the people you work with and they become your friends. You may or may not see each other outside of work, but you are companions who respect and trust one another. When working from home you still have your workmates, but you don’t as much social interaction. It is simply not the same.  

The small exchanges count too. When you go into the office, just getting there may mean you see a familiar face at the train station, buy a coffee from the same barista or bump into someone in the lift. You have a brief morning 'hello' or chat whilst making a cup of tea. All this is lost when working from home.

The stronger relationships at work vary, from knowing a colleague’s weekend plans and hobbies to going on holiday together. Our closest friends can be from or at work.

You may live with family or friends but they are not your work colleagues. It is hard for them to help, comment or give praise on what you are doing. You can’t grab them to have a impromptu conversation about an idea. Working from home can be lonely. That isolation can hurt your health. 

There are many health effects of loneliness. This BBC video explains how your well-being can be compromised. It quotes studies have found 'that having poor social connections can be as deadly as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and proved to be roughly as bad for your health as suffering from obesity or having a lack of exercise'.  

A recently published study looks at the gender difference in loneliness. It explains and studies evidence that women have been more affected and notes that those under 30 are also lonelier. James Jackson at Leeds Trinity University writes ‘loneliness is more common: late-20s, mid-50s and late-80s’.

When you are in your 20s and working, the workplace for many in this age group is where you form bonds. Going for lunch or a drink after work can be a major part of your social interaction.

Working from home maybe with us for a while yet. So don’t forget to speak to your work colleagues. Not necessarily about work but instead to ask, how are you?