The Dark Side Of Working From Home: Loneliness

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Now that many people have been working from home for more than a month, the novelty might be starting to wane.

And a dark side of working remote could emerge: loneliness.

Workplace loneliness can be a problem even when everyone is working in an office. But the sudden shift to remote work can increase the risk.

“If you’ve been working with people for a while and had that connectivity and face-to-face meetings and were used to that work environment, and now suddenly working at a distance with little connectivity, it really creates a huge problem,” said Ben Fanning.

He is the author of “The Quit Alternative: The Blueprint for Creating the Job You Love Without Quitting.” “It’s like being on a remote island.”

Even if you are working from home with your spouse and kids running around, you can still feel professionally lonely.

Research shows that workplace loneliness hurts job performance. You can become a less effective worker as co-workers find you less approachable and stop collaborating.

“The lonelier you are, the worse you will perform,” said Sigal Barsade, a professor of management at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

“You become less effectively committed to your organization.”

What it looks like

Loneliness leads to a downward spiral, according to Barsade.

“Once you are lonely, you are more socially hyper-vigilant and start to lose your social skills,” she said. “You behave in ways that promote more loneliness.”

You might start to over- or under-disclose personal information. Lonely workers can also become overly cautious about being rejected by their peers, which can make them seem less approachable, said Hakan Ozcelik, professor of management at California State University, Sacramento.

“Lonely people read negative cues more quickly and ignore positive cues,” said Ozcelik. “You have dark lenses through which you are interpreting messages.”

Workers who were already feeling marginalized in the office and might have only been getting an occasional wave in the morning or head nod in the hallway might be more prone to feeling lonely working from home.

“Now they don’t even get that. If people aren’t talking to them separately, the people who are already lonely might become even more so,” said Barsade.

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