9 April 2023

How to avoid feeling lonely in an age of remote working

Even though lockdown's winding down, you're still working from home, and it's making you pretty lonely. Whether you're a freelancer or a remote employee, staring at the same four walls all day can quickly get you down. So what can you do?

The good news is, there are a lot of people in the creative community who've been in the same boat. So we canvassed our followers on Twitter and asked for their sure-fire tips. Read on as we share the best of them, and you can find the complete set of responses here.

1. Don't be scared to make a call

It's kind of amazing. Thanks to apps like Zoom, we can easily chat face-to-face with each other, wherever we are in the world. But how many of us actually take advantage of that?


Most of us only ever use apps like Zoom when we're invited to meetings. But how about arranging your own? If you're hosting the call, it needn't be the kind of stilted borefest we all hate: you can make it a much more casual, 'how are you?' type catchup.


"I try to organise as many phone or face to face conversations with clients and colleagues as possible," says Ellie Hegarty. "Although email's quicker, it makes it easy to lose the spark and forget who you're working with and why. You also miss out so many details and nuances in work."


It doesn't just have to be clients and colleagues you call, either. A chat with anyone you know in the creative community can be a real morale booster. "I started doing regular video coffee chats with some of my creative friends, and it really helped me a lot," says artist and illustrator Carina Lindmeier. "It's like, having a quick chat about work, some private stuff going on, what you struggle with, exchanging ideas, and so on… it's great fun!"


Plus, away from work, there are surely friends who'd love a quick chinwag about totally random stuff. Photographer Oli Sansom, for example, enjoys "back and forth video messages, sharing a craft with a friend that's also immersed. We're insufferable, playing video tennis with our coffee-grind science and extraction notes most mornings. It's something to make and something to look forward to.


"We care about how each other is doing mentally and have separate conversations to that end," he adds. "But the low weight of these exchanges is the best thing. No pleasantries, just blunt-force updates, notes and suggestions. It's been totally grand."

2. Find other ways to connect

While video calls provide the level of human contact missing from emails, they can sometimes be a little intense and draining. So it's also worth seeking out other ways to network and chat that sit somewhere in the middle.


Freelance animator and illustrator Rosie Phillpot suggests you: "Join Slack or Discord channels with fellow freelancers. They're out there if you look for them! I joined a couple that I found through Twitter. It's great to have people to chat to throughout the day about general stuff, as well as advise when you need it. Gavin Strange has a discord server called The Happy Place; there's also Motion Design Artists Slack. Otherwise, it's worth putting a tweet out. I'm sure there are plenty I don't know of!"


Freelance motion designer Dan Silverstone, meanwhile, recommends: "Texting or sending voice notes to mates… usually drivel, which spawns more drivel chat. I've also joined a @noclipvideo Discord group, so there's always something going on in there. Keeping Slack open with friends and clients is also good for downtime too."


Another way of connecting with other creatives that's a little more formal but potentially very rewarding is co-mentoring. As graphic designer Liz Mosley explains: "You find someone who is at a similar stage of biz as you, but maybe in a slightly different industry and help each other. Be colleagues; bounce ideas off each other and encourage each other!"


The joy of remote working is that it gives you flexibility in structuring your schedule. So make sure you take full advantage and build fun little breaks into your day to counter boredom and loneliness.

3. Get out of the house

Sometimes, remote working shrinks your world, and it can feel like the walls are closing in. But now that lockdown restrictions have been relaxed, there's absolutely no reason why that should be. You just need to force yourself out of the house and get out there in the fresh air.

SEO expert Colin McDermott recommends you: "Go for a walk every day whether you need to go out or not. Leaving the house will make you feel more connected to other people."


Erris de Stacpoole, PR for Unlimited, takes a similar approach. "Have a fake commute every morning before work," she recommends. "Walk for 10 minutes or grab a coffee before work." As does artist and performer Laura Frances Martin. "Start your day with a short change of scene," she advises. "Whether it's a walk or a coffee out or ideally both, it helps set up your day with some useful fresh air and a little external input. As someone who's worked from home for 14 years, that seems to work well for me."

4. Build fun breaks into your day

The joy of remote working is that it gives you flexibility in structuring your schedule. So make sure you take full advantage and build fun little breaks into your day to counter boredom and loneliness.


Food photographer Anna Stanford, for example, recommends you "grab a pre-work takeaway coffee or take yourself out for lunch. It gets you out of the house, supports small businesses and makes you feel a part of your local community. All good things!"


Similarly, freelance SEO Zack Neary-Hayes urges you to "nip out for coffee, or something similar to break up the day. And actively book lots of socialising with pals after work. It feels good to be productive in the day and then having the freedom to catch up with people properly."


That said, you don't necessarily have to get outside to be active. "I take regular K-pop dance breaks during the day," says art director Lisa Lanzarini. "I just play 'UGH!' or 'Lemonade' to restore my energy and get ready to tackle anything that comes my way."

5. Find a hobby

It's not the most original advice, but it remains the best. If you're feeling lonely and isolated as a remote worker, start a hobby.


"For me, going to online life drawing classes has given me the sense of community and structure that I was lacking," says Louise Gouet. Illustrator and pattern designer. Jacqueline Colley, meanwhile, goes to her local gym for group exercise classes like aerobics. "There's a bunch of familiar faces and pre/post class chit chat," she says. "The social aspect makes it way more fun and lightens my day."


Darren Riley, meanwhile, takes part in a weekly Zoom drawing club. "It's been really valuable to me," he enthuses. "This isn't my day job, so it's great to be able to talk about making art with others."

6. Listen to radio and podcasts

One of the reasons radio and podcasts have had a resurgence in the last few years is that they often form a strong personal connection between the presenter and the audience. That makes them a great way to feel less isolated when working from home. As illustrator Louise Gouet puts it: "They're the next best thing to having studio buddies!"

Artisan Shalini Austin adds: "Listening to local radio helps me because then I know things are happening nearby, in familiar locations. I find it comforting. If possible, though, I don't listen to the radio using headphones. If the sound is coming from somewhere else in the room, it feels like there is someone else here."


If you prefer streaming music, though, why not create a sense of community by sharing your favourite tunes? "Set up collaborative Spotify playlists with your friends, with a WhatsApp chat to discuss choices," suggests content writer Luc Benyon. "Then you've got an ongoing music streaming conversation throughout the day."