Working from home usually means working alone. If you live alone too, then feelings of isolation and loneliness can quickly become overwhelming. Social isolation increases your vulnerability to mental and physical illnesses, which of course further undermines your ability to do your job or run your business.
That’s not always the case though. There is a difference between loneliness and solitude. Let’s face it, you can feel lonely when you’re in a crowd or with someone you don’t connect with. Loneliness is a negative state, where you feel something is missing. For most of us, social connection and relationships where you feel love, honesty and closeness are essential to our wellbeing.
Some alone time is positive
Solitude is the state of being alone, but not feeling lonely. Some solitude is important and the amount will vary depending on where you sit on the introvert-extrovert scale. Solitude is a positive state, that you chose, rather than having it imposed on you like loneliness. Rich solitude can be a time to reflect, think, be creative and regain perspective.
A good degree of positive alone time is invaluable, but too much can quickly become damaging.
Home-based workers need to plan to ensure that they get the balance right. Don’t leave it to chance, schedule in social connection, make it part of your routine.
The hazards of loneliness
When isolation tips into loneliness, it can quickly spiral into feelings of anxiety and depression. Those mental health issues compound loneliness, as depression dampens self-esteem, leaving you feeling dull and uninteresting to the outside world. You pull away from friends and relationships and become even more lonely. To read more about these impacts click here
Chronic loneliness or social isolation has been found to be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It affects your sleep, lowers your immune responses, increases blood pressure and impairs your mental and cognitive functions. Even when they are relaxed, lonely people have higher stress levels than people with adequate levels of social connection.
Without social contact, most of us start to fall apart.
The commercial cost of isolation
Loneliness should be part of the risk assessment for home-based working. On top of the health and human costs are some very real financial costs.
Productivity is eroded. People who feel depressed are less well-motivated, they work more slowly and with less sense of purpose.
Relationships are essential to any business. But if loneliness sets in, relationship building can feel more of a chore to be avoided than an opportunity to explore.
Innovative thinking is sparked by making connections. Mixing with different people provides immense fuel for new ideas and creative thinking. Isolation strips away the opportunity for the new innovative insights which will help your business to stay fresh, to adapt and to grow.
Finally, of course loneliness makes you ill and so there will be a direct number of sick days to take into account too.
It is your choice
The difference between loneliness and solitude is choice. Solitude is something we positively choose, loneliness feels imposed – we would much rather not be alone and we feel inadequate by ourselves. You can close the gap by choosing to have agency. Take control of your situation. Make social connection a habit and reframe the feeling of empty loneliness with a sense of enriching solitude. Your health, happiness and business will all be better for it.