Tackling remote loneliness with 150+ years of combined experience 🚀

Hrishikesh Pardeshi

Hrishikesh Pardeshi

Snir shared an amazing post on what social isolation means and how you can tackle it as an individual. We have spoken numerous times on this topic and strongly subscribe to the fact that this is the single biggest challenge with long-term remote work.

Excerpts on tackling remote loneliness from experienced remote workers

This week again I want to broach the same discussion but take a backseat in terms of sharing my thoughts. Instead, I want to share opinions of all the seasoned remote workers we have spoken to over the past year.

I know you must have read multiple posts on the web sharing tips & pointers on how to tackle loneliness. But this one’s special, since it combines tons of remote working experience, 166.5 years to be precise, and brings out personal anecdotes & tips.

So fasten your seatbelt and enjoy the ride! And if you have your own experience to share, we are so keen to hear that - just drop in a comment on this thread.

Rhys Jones, Photographer, Graphic Designer & Frontend Dev

Remote Work Experience: 20 years

The first few months of working remotely were incredibly jarring and freeing in equal amounts. I found the lack of human interaction isolating, but managed to counter the isolation with walks during lunch or having a coffee with my wife at her place of work. This isolation was heavily outweighed, however, by the freedom I gained around “how I worked” and “when I worked”.

The primary challenge with remote work still continues to be the isolation. While it’s great being away from the distraction and noise of an office space, it can also take a huge toll on your mental and physical health.

I’m still working on ways to combat this and it’ll be different for everyone. For me a few things I’ve found that work are; renting a hot desk at a coworking space, going to a local cafe for a few hours, meeting up with friends during the day or going out for a run for an hour. Just getting out and getting some fresh air can help immensely.

Read Rhys’s full story here.

Alda Lima, Freelance Translator & Interpreter

Remote Work Experience: 11 years

Also if you’re an introvert like I can be sometimes, it’s easy to fall into the trap of being home for days working and not interacting with anyone in person. This is something I still struggle a lot with.

Sometimes I feel I am always working and not taking enough time for recreation (or just feeling ok with not doing anything). I have been trying to structure my day into blocks and even scheduling time for daily entertainment (instead of leaving the fun only to when I travel).

Read Alda’s full story here.

Himanshu Vaishnav, Freelance UX and Product Designer

Remote Work Experience: 2 years

Worst part about remote work: Isolation – We are biologically social creatures and offices provide us with a great way to socialize while working and making a living.

I fought the severe feeling of isolation in my first few months of going remote. Moving back to a town where I had a social circle was one of the steps I took towards fighting isolation.

It’s a very real problem that a lot of people miss/underestimate when going remote. But just like any other problem in life, this too can be handled by making it a priority. For me, being outdoors and prioritising my mental health and family while including socialising into routine did the trick.

Read Himanshu’s full story here.

Teresa Douglas, People & Operations Manager

Remote Work Experience: 10 years

Probably the worst thing about remote work is that people can’t always organically notice when you’re struggling. This is especially true if everyone is distracted because they are going through a tough time, like the situation we’re in due to coronavirus.

Many years ago, I had a boss that wasn’t terribly supportive. It took me a long time to find a way to get help with my particular situation because I worked alone and hadn’t developed a trusting network of people I felt safe talking to. I would handle that situation differently today than I did at that time.

Read Teresa’s full story here.

Jacqueline Zeller, CMO at Workplaceless

Remote Work Experience: 5 years

The part I don’t like (about remote work) is loneliness. I love being physically around people and there are days that go by where I only see my kids in person. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the daily routine of the work, and I now need to be more intentional about committing to opportunities to physically connect, knowing that these are energizing to me.

My advice to others - Set boundaries for yourself and communicate those to your team. I block my days based on my working hours as well as based on chunks of time where I aim to accomplish deep work, when I’m focused on everyday tasks that can tolerate interruption, and when I’m available for meetings.

Read Jacqueline’s full story here.

Gabriel Bujold, Digital & Growth Marketer

Remote Work Experience: 1.5 years

I would say that, on my end, the worst aspect of remote work is the lack of work relationships. I love to talk to my colleagues and share about our weekends and I don’t find this aspect with remote work.

You can still have like virtual coffee breaks, team meetings, 1 on 1 chats, but it’s not the same thing as drinking a beer with your work friends on Friday before leaving for the weekend.

Read Gabriel’s full story here.

Boris Borisov, Founder of RemoteMore

Remote Work Experience: 4 years

What I don’t like so much is that for me, I need to be proactive when it comes to socializing – both at work and outside of work. I’ve learned that only when I keep this in mind and socialize intentionally, everything functions the way it should.

Read Boris’ full story here.

Irma Mesa, Remote Product Manager & Founder, Cafecito

Remote Work Experience: 3 years

(I don’t like the) Isolation and the non-closeness you feel towards co-workers being so far and distributed from each other. I try and solve isolation by getting out of the house, which has worked pretty well for me so far but I definitely miss in the in-office, whiteboard collaboration.

Read Irma’s full story here.

Melissa Smith, Virtual Assistant Matchmaker

Remote Work Experience: 3 years

The biggest problem with remote work is the loneliness. I’m not an extrovert but I do love people and miss interactions. This primarily drove my decision to travel the world with a group of other remote workers.

Read Melissa’s full story here.

Chanell Alexander, Freelance Writer & Remote Work Evangelist

Remote Work Experience: 5 years

I would say the bad part about working remotely is the isolation. It has been an adjustment to not have someone in a cubicle next to me to speak with. While I do enjoy the solitude, it can be draining. As a result, I have had to force myself to get out there and meet others. Now, I regularly meet with the “Atlanta Ladies Who Work Remote” group, and I try to meet with a friend at least once a week.

Read Chanell’s full story here.

Alexandra Cote, Remote Digital Marketer & Content Writer

Remote Work Experience: 3 years

For me, there are no negative aspects to working remotely. Maybe just the fact that when I’m too busy I can go days without leaving the house. Simply getting some fresh air and sunlight after that makes you enjoy all the little things. When I was first getting started with remote work I had this need of showing all the amazing things I could achieve. Like we all probably do.

Read Alexandra’s full story here.

Calvin Rosser, Growth Marketer & Ex-banker

Remote Work Experience: 4 years

One area where I’ve struggled is creating separation from work. When you go in and out of an office, there’s a natural separation between home life and work life. With the flexibility of remote work, I can open up my laptop and work at any point in the day. So while I can enjoy an afternoon nap or workout without anyone shaming me, I also find myself working at ten or eleven at night from my couch. I still haven’t found a good way to shut off entirely.

Read Calvin’s full story here.

Silvestar Bistrovic, Freelance Web Developer

Remote Work Experience: 3 years

My advice for every remote worker: Find yourself an office/ co-working space, Spend some time to make a work schedule, and Limit working from home to a minimum

Read Silvestar’s full story here.

Laura Cunha, Product Designer at InVision

Remote Work Experience: 5 years

Without a strong support network, not having that default social life from the office can make it quite lonely, especially in a new place where you don’t know anyone.

Read Laura’s full story here.

Alondo Brewington, Freelance iOS Dev, Entrepreneur & Podcast Host

Remote Work Experience: 10 years

While working remotely work has been largely positive, it can be very isolating and lonely. If you are not mindful of its effects, you can develop some bad habits that could negatively impact your well being. Physical and mental health are incredibly important. I would encourage everyone to make time for fostering community and self-care while working remotely.

Read Alondo’s full story here.

Al Chen, Solutions Architect at Coda

Remote Work Experience: 10 years

The worst aspect for many, I presume, is loneliness. I get this question asked all the time by my friends but also my colleagues as well. I don’t feel lonely since I have been proactive about meeting others in my co-working space, attending meetups, and joining online communities that have similar professional interests as me.

Read Al’s full story here.

Emilie Schario, Remote Data Engineer

Remote Work Experience: 5 years

I’ve been working remotely for so long now that I don’t remember my initial reactions. I do remember, though, how I struggled with isolation. I remember one day walking to my mailbox and thinking to myself that I hadn’t left the house for a couple of days. We had just moved to a new city, I didn’t know anyone, and I felt SO lonely. I had my job, but making friends as an adult in a new city is incredibly difficult, and I struggled.

At that point, I realized that if the remote work thing was going to work, I needed to be intentional about getting out of the house. Lots of people have worked to solve that problem for themselves in a myriad of ways. I chose to join a gym, and now working out is a part of my life 4-5 times per week. I get out of the house, get social interaction, and get self-care in one part of my day. When I start my day with a workout, I start the day by feeling accomplished, and I think it translates into better quality work.

Read Emilie’s full story here.

Andriy Haydash, Freelance wordpress dev

Remote Work Experience: 3 years

The first month was a bit weird for me as it was tricky to get used to working alone and not having anyone to talk to. But as time has passed, I’ve become accustomed to it and now I love it.

Not having someone to talk to: I sometimes miss having the ability to chat with a colleague, share a joke or to talk about something that is a common interest. Those things aren’t productive, but they help to keep you in a good mood and relieve stress.

Read Andriy’s full story here.

Scott Dawson, Web Developer & Author

Remote Work Experience: 22 years

Drawbacks exist, of course. Loneliness and isolation can be real problems, and they have been for me at times. I find that during times when my family is not around, I have to be far more intentional about making plans with others, and practicing self-care.

Read Scott’s full story here.

Jennifer Aldrich, Design Community Partnerships at InVision

Remote Work Experience: 10 years

The only negative (about remote work) I can think of is that as an introvert it’s easy for me to slip into hermit mode if I don’t actively force myself to get out and about. With Amazon and other online retailers shipping everything to the door, Instacart doing my grocery shopping, and Grub Hub delivering my food, it’s really easy to fall into an anti social slump, so I have to push myself in that regard.

Read Jennifer’s full story here.

Ryan Wilcox, Freelance Software Architect & Developer

Remote Work Experience: 15 years

Before COVID-19 I would try to get out of the house at least three times a week (even if just to grab lunch or coffee!), and work from somewhere else at least one afternoon a week. Just to see people, see something that wasn’t the inside of my house, deal with the isolation, you know.

Read Ryan’s full story here.

Ben Breckler, Product Designer at Doist

Remote Work Experience: 8 years

I’m an introvert, so I enjoy time by myself and introspection. Remote work can easily push you down a lonely self isolation path if you’re not careful. I had to learn what my body and mind needed in order to stay productive while working remotely. I had to adjust to actively choose to be social, schedule events, and movement or exercise to stay healthy.

Read Ben’s full story here.

Siddhant Goel, Software Developer & Entrepreneur

Remote Work Experience: 4 years

Take good care of yourself. To some extent, remote work can be isolatory, so make arrangements accordingly.

For example, plan enough “out-of-home” activities so you’re not stuck at home all the time. This is especially important if you’re the kind of person who needs regular contact with people.

Read Siddhant’s full story here.

Here's what our users had to say:

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Tagging all of the authors I have mentioned in the post :-) Rhys Jones - @rhys-63 Alda Lima - @aldalima Himanshu Vaishnav - @himvais Teresa Douglas - @teresadouglas Jacqueline Zeller - @jacquelinezeller-378 Gabriel Bujold - @BujoldChronicles Boris Borisov - @Borisov91 Irma Mesa - @irma Melissa Smith - @melissasmith-1 Chanell Alexander - @chanellalexander-9 Alexandra Cote - @alexandracote-19 Calvin Rosser - @calvinrosser-397 Silvestar Bistrovic - @silvestarbistrovic-3 Alondo Brewington - @alondobrewington-4 Al Chen - @alchen-7 Emilie Schario - @emilieschario-16 Andriy Haydash - @andriyhaydash-21 Scott Dawson - @scottpdawson Jennifer Aldrich - @jennifer-aldrich Ryan Wilcox - @rwilcox Ben Breckler - @Ben"

  • Alda Lima said "Very interesting compilation, and thank you for tagging me! I think it would be fun to have us go back on the things we wrote a few months from now, after the pandemic, as our thoughts might have changed. At least for me, working remotely has changed in the last 5 months, even though I’d been doing it for almost 12 years now."

  • Karthik Sridharan said "Haha, that’s super interesting. Would you mind telling me what has been one major change and why do you think COVID changed that? Very curious to know your answer!"

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Great point Alda and I am more than happy to update the story :-) Read through your comments below and they are perfect add ons to the story we already have! Would be amazing if you can add in the content to the same doc - I will just drop you a line on email as well :-)"

  • Alda Lima said "Sure! I think the major change is that, since I am not living by myself right now, having everyone else be at home (instead of being mostly alone during the day) makes working from home a lot harder - there’s noise, interruptions… It definitely has been taking longer to get work done and my concentration levels have been affected. I live in Brazil and we’re the 2nd hotspot in the world, so I also don’t have the option yet (or just don’t feel safe yet) to go outside and relax a little and see other people. And the whole having to order food (and everything else) and then having to wash everything diligently and disinfect everything all the time… it takes a lot of time, which brings me to the second issue: Time. I feel there was this whole thing at the beginning of the pandemic where many people who worked in offices suddenly had to stay home and there was this whole “I have a lot of time now, so I’m taking 10 online courses and catching up on all the books on my list and experimenting with recipes and watching 3 lives a day and I’m even out of shows to watch on Netflix!” And, as much as I am super grateful for having my workflow remain pretty much the same (with a slight slowdown in April and May), I admit I felt a little behind on all that in a way because I was working and living as usual. It’s a conflicting feeling because I know I am so lucky to keep working, but it’s also hard not to compare yourself and feel you aren’t being productive, you’re just doing what you already did lol. Of course that there are many other things that involve COVID, but 2020 overall is being such a crazy year that it’s hard not to have your attention being pulled in all directions by all the news and events going on, this has also definitely been a major challenge."

  • Karthik Sridharan said "Wow Alda, thanks for sharing your thoughts in such detail. I am totally able to visualize this. A work environment change is surely tricky and takes a lot of adapting to. We have also moved from an in-office set up to a shift to full-time remote. Got to say that it hasn’t been all rosy. Initially, I didn’t have a proper work set up and that started giving some weird neck pains. Then that got sorted, but I am just not feeling as productive as before. To be honest, I am not able to attribute it to any one specific reason. Our workload has increased but I still feel that I should get it done sooner than the current state. And yes, there are a lot more household chores to take care of now which makes this entire process more tricky. So, I am able to relate to a lot of what you have shared. I can take solace in the fact that even experienced remote workers like you are having to re-calibrate. Stuff around news and benchmarking vs. others are also surely tricky aspects. Fortunately, I have always tried to stay away from news as much as I can. Not sure if that’s the smartest move, but I only track developments in the startup and tech world. This saves my mind from being occupied by random thoughts. I hope it gets better for you soon and I will surely share if I manage to find some things that work for me. Thanks once again for sharing your experience :)"

  • Alda Lima said "Thanks for sharing! Yes, I think we are always trying to adapt - both if we’ve been working remotely for years and if we haven’t. Plus, this scenario we’re in is truly new, so we don’t even have a reference to go to for some guidance. As for not feeling as productive as before, I think your observation of not being able to attribute it to one specific reason is on point - maybe it’s everything that is going on at the same time and not just one thing. But I also think you are on the right track by staying away from the news. Really, if there is something going on that we absolutely must know, it will reach us somehow. Thank you and I hope it gets better and easier for you too! Working remotely is 100% worth it, it just takes time and some adjusting :)"

  • Alda Lima said "Great, thank you!!"

  • Snir said "Wow this is an amazing collection! Thank you for curating this. Definitely alot of interesting view points to read."

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Thanks Snir! Glad you liked it :-)"

  • Rhys said "Ha! Yes this is very timely @hrishikesh with COVID being a thing now. For me, luckily, not too much has changed. The company I work for is doing fine and business continues to grow. It was tough personally from March–May due to New Zealand going into a hard lock-down. We had the kids at home full-time, while juggling work and trying to keep sane. We weren’t allowed to leave our property unless going to get groceries or for exercise, and even then, only within a 5km radius. Now New Zealand is pretty much open again, just no overseas travel. I do feel for the New Zealanders who are still overseas and can’t get back, that would’ve been me and my family if we had not moved back a year ago."

  • Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "Great to hear all’s well at your end Rhys! That’s right, tough times for all of us. Back here in India, things are opening up. Domestic travel is also picking up pace but yes, international travel doesn’t seem a reality for the next few months. Plus being a working parent in such times is surely Superhuman :-)"

  • John Wade said "Well-curated list! Just read your story @chanellalexander-9 and I’m quite curious to know how you have been dealing with isolation during this pandemic? Are the ‘Atlanta Ladies Remote Group’ meetings taking place virtually?"

  • Chanell Alexander said "Hi John! Thanks for reaching out. That’s a great question. I actually have not been attending the ATL Ladies Remote Group meetings lately (I just moved and am still settling in). However, I typically try to have Zoom meetings with friends at least once or twice a week. I also participate in a weekly trivia group as a pastime. Thanks for asking!"

  • John Wade said "Thanks for the update, Chanell. That’s amazing! Weekly trivia group sessions sound fun :)"

  • Ermira Krasniqi said "Hey @emilieschario-16 I really like how you took care of yourself by joining a gym to alleviate isolation and this is something that I want to take up as well. Just wanted to know if Covid-19 brought a change to your self-care routine?"