When Claire Hone started working for herself from home as a transcriber, she recalls the solitary moments in between calls and jobs. “The silence in the house was deafening,” she says. “It was just me, the crickets, and our family dog, Sammy.”
Claire found it took several months to find a rhythm in her day and learn that she needed to proactively schedule time in to see friends outside of the house. “It is so easy to become siloed working at home… I wanted to be able to connect with people who I could share my day with,” she says.
Read Claire’s full story in Volume 1 of The Homeworker magazine.
Claire is not alone in experiencing work from home loneliness, especially when it is a relatively new transition from the office environment.
Forging connections and building relationships is fundamental to our happiness and wellbeing. The Harvard study into human happiness found that deep relationships and connections are the key to a long, healthy life. If you look at the world’s ‘Blue Zones’ (where people live the longest), social connection is a common factor.
According to the Office for National Statistics, levels of loneliness in Great Britain have increased since spring 2020. In 2021, results from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey indicated that the proportion of the adult population experiencing loneliness increased from 5% to 7.2% (around 3.7 million adults). The Campaign To End Loneliness also found similar results.
Local initiative helping to combat work from home loneliness
One High Street café has become a valuable space for people struggling with work from home loneliness. The Cornish Bakery in the Lincolnshire town of Stamford has become a meeting place for people to connect after work. Partnering with local wellbeing charity, MindSpace, they are offering a warm, friendly, social space for people to drop in, offload, and talk through the stresses of their day.
“At Cornish Bakery, we have a strong ethos of looking after our workers’ wellbeing and we are always looking for ways we can help to support mental health initiatives. For us, this is a way to extend our ethos out to the community of Stamford and surrounding areas,” says Sean Milton manager of the café.
“In working together with MindSpace we have come up with this plan to help people in our area who may be experiencing work-related stress with possibly no one to talk to.”
The initiative is looking to fill the need for a place where professionals and workers can come together to offload after a busy day, and to socialise and connect with others who may have had similar experiences.
“It has become the norm for people to work from home now.” says Pip Tiffin, People & Operations Lead at MindSpace. “It has meant that people have much less actual social contact than they had been used to prior to Covid. Whereas previously people might have been able to talk to co-workers about their work stressors or their worries, it can be difficult to form these essential connections from a home office.”
‘After Work Connect‘ takes place every Thursday evening from 5.30 – 7pm at Cornish Bakery, High Street Stamford. It is free to attend and refreshments are provided.
Chatty Cafés offer a place to connect
The sessions in Stamford are some of many similar that have sprung up around the UK. Some café initiatives launched during the pandemic to help bring people together. Other programmes existed prior to 2020.
It was on a wet, windy day, more than six years ago that Alex Hoskyn was sat in a supermarket café with her baby son, looking around at the different people also sat alone, looking a little fed up. She wondered what it would be like if they all just got together and started a conversation. That’s when the idea for the Chatty Cafés scheme was born.
It has gone from a mere idea to over 600 venues around the UK, hosting Chatter and Natter sessions. They also now offer virtual sessions on Zoom and a telephone service.
Their report into the impact that the scheme is having found that over 96% of people interacting with Chatty Café Scheme services reduced their experience of loneliness and isolation.
“We’re not trying to build friendships – just simple interactions to combat loneliness and to just maybe have a big impact on someone’s day. Although the aims of the scheme are to reduce loneliness and get people chatting, we decided not to use the word loneliness on any of the publicity that is displayed in cafés. Instead it is very positive and focuses on bringing people of all ages and from all walks of life together. We want to mix everyone up!”
They have found that for people having these social interactions in the day, they feel happier and it brightens their day. They also feel more confident talking to others and joining new groups, which can have a much wider impact for people working from home in their careers as well.
Before the pandemic, there were over 100 Happy Cafés set up throughout the UK by supporters of Action for Happiness. These are friendly, welcoming places designed to encourage happiness and wellbeing.
With a focus on happiness, they offer a sanctuary and a form of relief from our stressed-out lifestyles. They can provide a real respite for people who might struggle with work from home loneliness as they promote fostering local connections.
In Northern Ireland, Connected Cafés have launched across the borough of Antrim and Newtownabbey. Designated tables in a number of coffee shops are there for anyone who wants to come in for a chat and connect with other customers.
Social prescribing has become a recognised approach for people suffering from loneliness and depression. Various local community programmes now support those who have been referred by a social prescriber.
Some of these services include community programmes such as communal gardens or walking groups. People can also join cooking, knitting, arts, dance, and singing clubs. There is a huge range of different activities and social groups where people can take part and importantly, make connections and build friendships.
If you struggle with work from home loneliness, you can support your mental wellbeing by incorporating social activities in your week. Become your own social prescriber! Making sure you have these times scheduled into your diary as non-negotiables ensures that weeks don’t go by without you connecting with anyone outside of work. Many of these activities can combine other benefits such as fitness or learning new skills. Sometimes a simple coffee and a catch up is all that is required to keep your mental health in balance.
The Homeworker Networking
The Homeworker holds virtual networking and social meet-ups for our community. These are friendly, informal gatherings where we can form connections but also make plans and support each other with our goals and progress.
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