Jackie Beckett shares her experience of loneliness during lockdown, and some tips on how to combat it whilst we all work from home
There’s no doubt the last six months have been tough but, relatively speaking, my husband and I have been incredibly lucky. We have both been able to transition to working full time from home easily, we don’t have children so we haven’t had to manage home schooling or entertaining toddlers whilst trying to work, and we have a home with a garden to get outside each day even during the tougher restrictions. However, one of the things I have been struggling with is the feeling of loneliness at work, particularly on a bad day.
As someone who draws energy from others I thrive on being surrounded by people. Even though at makepositive we are often doing project work and working with a team located all around the world, I have always enjoyed coming into the office for a bit of social interaction and banter. This is something I have been missing terribly throughout lockdown, to the point where I’ve started making up reasons to get in touch with a colleague just to have interaction with someone other than my husband or dog!
Jackie’s work companion Meg!
For the most part I’m happy working from home, but it’s the occasional bad day when I can feel acutely alone. The days where I finish a meeting with more action items to add to my already overwhelming list, or I’m stuck on a problem and I’ve already asked someone 5 times for help and don’t want to bother them again. I sit at my desk not knowing where to start and the stress and anxiety can start to build up.
It’s not like being in the office would change my workload, but being with other people somehow dilutes the feelings of stress and gives me some perspective. The team is there if I need to ask a quick question, or get some advice on the best way to approach things. Also, being face to face with people means I can feed off their positive energy, and others are able to gauge my energy and notice if I’m having a bad day and check in and vice versa, a quick “Are you OK?” or “You’re a bit quiet today” can mean a lot.
On the flip side, a bad day at home can feel very isolating, no one will know you are struggling unless you actually reach out and tell them, which can be incredibly difficult to do. Recently I have been making an effort to speak up if I’m having a bad day and have been surprised to find so many others that I’ve spoken to have been having similar struggles. Just knowing you’re not the only one goes a long way to making you feel better and it means that others can help.
At the start of lockdown everyone made a huge effort to stay virtually connected, often to the point where it became a bit too much. At one point I was doing 4 quizzes a week and having virtual drinks with friends all over the world. Everyone quickly got tired of this and now it feels like we have swung too far back the other way. Some things I think we could do to help stay connected without overdoing it are:
- Engage in a bit of banter – could be over Slack, could be a video catch up or over drinks but a way to say hi without being in an actual meeting (I’m a big fan of receiving funny dog videos!)
- Reaching out to colleagues for no reason, maybe drop someone a line that you haven’t spoken to for a while to see how they are doing
- When on calls listen for cues as to how your colleagues are doing, is someone quieter than usual, are they grumpy or sound unusually down. Perhaps a chat is all they need to make them feel better
- Set up a reason to contact people, perhaps you could have a Strava group and a bit of encouragement and support to meet your fitness goals as part of a virtual team.
Without a doubt we are living through a very strange time, and navigating through the uncertainty is difficult for everyone, but talking about it and being aware of others is hugely important. I know that becoming aware of my own struggles with isolation and connecting and sharing with others has helped me over the last few weeks and months, and hopefully this blog has provided some comfort, reassurance and ideas for you and your team too. Keep safe and well everyone!