Missing Your Colleagues?

By Mel Sim

Working from home can be a lonely thing….

Ah, lockdown again. And yes, WFH – yet again. It may seem like we are never getting out of this cycle and your home office is becoming more of a permanent thing until the whole COVID thing dies down (who knows when that will be!) or if Malaysia reaches herd immunity (who knows when that will be!).

Sure, working from home has its benefits – no commute, lunch out in your garden, and having your pet cat nearby when you’re crunching numbers isn’t too bad. But let’s face it – humans are a social lot and if there is one thing we miss from WFH, it’s probably our colleagues. Online interaction can never replace physical interaction, we all know that. In fact, a research found that one in three of us actually miss our colleagues more than we thought we would! More proof that we are missing our colleagues? This survey found that 58 percent of remote workers feel disconnected from their colleagues and 44 percent reported feeling more isolated and lonely working from home.

It makes perfect sense – you were in fact spending so much time with your colleagues (think up to 40 hours a week) at the office so it is not surprising that their physical presence is something you can’t help but miss. Even if that colleague is always talking too loudly on the phone or constantly borrowing a pen but not returning it. It’s the physical connection that we miss and being surrounded by people instead of just the four walls of your home office – and yes, that pet cat that can’t replace your colleague, let’s face it.

At the same time, this physical interaction that you have with your colleagues is more than just a social thing – research has shown that being around work mates (especially the ones whose company we enjoy) can make you feel more productive, happier and yes, even reduce the chance of burnout. Think of them as a distraction you need from the stress at work once in a while. And being able to go out to celebrate someone’s birthday is actually something many of us look forward to!

It’s no wonder why mental well-being has come under the limelight for this whole WFH experiment! Being isolated, especially if you live alone at home, can take a toll on your mental health. Not having that interaction you need can make you feel extremely lonely.

Guess what – your colleague is probably feeling the same. You may think that you don’t want to bother them but they are probably feeling the out-of-office blues just like you (read survey above!). So here are things you can do to reconnect with your colleagues while you WFH until it’s time to have that lunch session in person.

#1 Reach out
Send a text message or an email that’s not work related. Something simple saying, “Hey, how are you? Hope you are well. Stay safe,” is a great opener. The goal is to touch base and to connect not just because of work. Plus, your colleague may appreciate hearing from you as he may also be feeling out of sorts with everything happening right now. Take it as a “Hey I am thinking of you” message.

#2 Plan something as a group
Lunch dates over Zoom. Friday morning breakfast coffee and tea. Posting photos and updates in your WhatsApp group. There are many ways you can still stay connected to your colleague even when you are all stuck at home.

#3 Offer help
Some of your colleagues may be really suffering under these new working conditions. Maybe they are overwhelmed with trying to balance work and life, or maybe they are just feeling the general COVID anxiety. Create an informal group chat to keep each other motivated by offering moral support and also to exchange ideas. Keep work gossip and anything work related out of this chat group. A friend chat can go a long way for someone who is feeling alone.

#4 Do something fun!
Yes, you can do something fun together even when you’re all individually at home. Maybe you can sign up for a ClassPass session? Or rope in a barista to show you and your colleagues how to make latte art? Got a friend who is a yoga teacher? Arrange for her to teach you and your colleague in a quick session before work. Whatever it is, these group sessions offer a great chance to connect and have fun together.

#5 Send them a gift
It doesn’t have to be extravagant; maybe a box of cookies or a simple lunch for Friday. Or work out something with each other to give treats every two weeks. Take turns on gifting. This is also a great way to support your restaurants and local traders! Plus, it’s something to look forward too while you’re under lockdown.

Any other ideas on how to connect with your colleagues during lockdown? Email us at [email protected]!

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

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