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VOL. 45 | NO. 18 | Friday, April 30, 2021

Finding your tribe during time of workplace isolation

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Loneliness is at an all-time high. And it makes sense since the pandemic has been raging for more than a full year. Many people have been working from home, including single employees who now have little social interaction outside of work.

Unfortunately, the remote work environment doesn’t make socializing all that social. Remote work encourages meetings to be more structured and scheduled. When employees log in to a call on Zoom, there is often very little small talk. This is especially true when the meeting is made up of more than two people.

This can be efficient. Some people are getting more work done than usual. But we’re losing sight of the small things, such as how our co-workers are really doing.

It’s harder to tell how someone is through the computer screen. It’s harder to remember to ask about their families or special milestones. And honestly, with COVID, there is often less to ask about.

On top of this, working remotely can create new layers of political and social dynamics that add to daily stress. Sadly, when we are feeling lonely and then extra stressed at work, it can multiply the feelings of isolation. This can turn into a viscous cycle where we’re left feeling upset, unmotivated and very alone.

If you find yourself in this situation, it is important to force yourself to reconnect with those around you. Admitting you’re struggling can be tough. It’s vulnerable. It doesn’t feel good. But it can help.

If you are struggling day to day, consider reaching out to a colleague. Be honest. Share that you’re having a tough time with the current dynamics at work.

You might be surprised to learn that your co-workers are facing some of the same struggles. They will likely be very understanding. They may share positive words of encouragement. If you need help with an assignment, they might volunteer to lend a hand. There’s also a good chance that they need someone to talk to, as well.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting to turn the workplace into a full-on therapy session. I’m also not suggesting that you should gossip about your other colleagues.

But, a tremendous amount of good can come from talking to other people. By opening up, you’ll find a friend. You’ll find an alliance. You’ll find help. And, before you know it, you will likely feel less alone.

If you’re hesitant to talk to co-workers about your struggles, try opening up to a close friend or family member. Sometimes, a listening ear can make all the difference.

Alternatively, you could spend more time talking to co-workers about something other than your struggles. Feeling like you have friends in the company (even if they don’t know you’re struggling) can help.

Whatever you do, reach out and connect. We are in this together. It’s completely natural to feel lonely and to need others during this unique time.

Angela Copeland, a career expert and founder of Copeland Coaching, can be reached at copelandcoaching.com.

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