Publication by Miro about the future of distributed teamwork

How to avoid isolation when working remotely

April 24, 2020

Remote work isn’t just a growing trend anymore – it has rapidly become a necessity for businesses all over the world. While many are adapting to working from home for the first time, even teams that are already remote are having to adjust their routines and mindset. They are having to deal with a whole new work dynamic that they’ve never tried before.

In this article, we’ll investigate the biggest challenge for remote workers and teams: remote working isolation. We’ll delve into what exactly remote working isolation is, and how you can prevent feelings of isolation on an individual, team, and organizational level. Expect to learn about the critical success factors that will empower employees, teams and organizations to function during a time of uncertainty and change effectively.

Shauna Moran

Founder at Operate Remote


Shauna Moran is the founder of Operate Remote and an award-winning, accredited coach. Her mission? To empower leaders to create a productive, highly-functional, effective, and engaged workforce, regardless of location. She helps them scale into the future, with confidence.

What is remote isolation

Loneliness and isolation are the largest reported concern amongst remote workers. Remote workers primarily spend their working days alone, physically disconnected from their teams and colleagues which can lead to increased loneliness and feels of isolation.

The lack of real human in person connection can lead to symptoms of isolation including increased stress levels and bad decision making and a general unhappiness for employees. Not only is this a concern for the remote working individual, but it also has knock on effects for an employer; having a less engaged and unhappy team will surface various types of challenges. Unfortunately, being isolated also means these symptoms are difficult for employers or leaders to detect.

Adapting to an entirely new working environment and trying to manage yourself, your time, and your work probably feels a little overwhelming. Being new at something is the epitome of vulnerability. Every one of us is feeling vulnerable right now.

We cannot fast forward through this. We can only push forward and take this as an opportunity to learn and to grow.

Discipline is key when working from home

The success of individuals working from home relies solely on one’s ability to self-manage. In recent weeks, employees all over the world have had to abruptly bring work into their homes, without adequate training on how to manage themselves, their time and their other responsibilities effectively. They may also be homeschooling children, looking after loved ones or finding ways to switch off from work at the end of the day.

Those new to remote working have suddenly moved from a structured, set routine of commuting to and from the office to a flexible ambiguous model of working. For some, this can lead to employees feeling distracted more easily, struggling with procrastination and focus.

The contrary can also happen when the focus on their work reaches a level where it’s hard to stop. This level of productivity isn’t sustainable and can, in turn, lead to burnout.

Having an organized method to get work done is paramount, whether it is a self-made schedule, a weekly plan with tasks and goals, or time-blocking your priorities on a daily and weekly basis. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to self-management, but the key is for individuals to reflect on what is and what isn’t working. The starting point is to understand when and where you work at your best in the home, and what it is you need to feel at your most focused is key in embracing a new way of working.

We may not be able to go to our local coffee shops, the gym or co-working space, but we can adapt the activities that work for us into an online environment. Whether it’s having online coffee with colleagues throughout the day to facilitate ‘water-cooler moments’ or getting an online workout in before you open your laptop, the key is not necessary to reinvent the wheel. Recognize what’s worked for in the past, and adapt that to work in this new environment. Take time to reflect on what’s accomplished, and what can be improved and make conscious incremental changes to be 1% better every day.

We are social beings

Human interaction is compromised for everyone in the world right now. The lack of social interaction may be especially heightened for first time remote workers who relied heavily on in-person communication to build working relationships, brainstorm, and effectively get their work done.

The absence of human interaction could lead to lack of trust and empathy between team members, which is not suitable for business or good for employees on a personal level.

To connect with our colleagues throughout this change, we must take responsibility and ownership for finding time and ways to communicate with our colleagues. Social interactions don’t necessarily have to take up a lot of time; we can introduce micro-interactions, such as five-minute 1-1 coffee chats online and group video-calls that encourage conversations outside of work responsibilities and updates.

Improving communication and assuring remote employees get human and meaningful interaction with each other will inevitably develop a bond between employees. This bond cultivates genuine care for their peers, meaning it will be easier for people to collaborate, ask and offer assistance or guidance, and therefore increasing productivity and improving results overall.

Subscribe to learn more about online collaboration

Creating a culture of accountability & support 

It is essential to encourage trust and empathy within teams; we spend so much of our time working that it is crucial to create a space where employees feel secure, where they feel confident enough to ask for help and speak their minds when they have an idea. People are so much more capable of overcoming challenges and solving problems where they are comfortable by working together, so managers should create a culture that rewards and encourages accountability and support to make employees feel safe and work at their best.

In a time of change and uncertainty, your company culture is even more critical than ever. Everyone in your organization and team is experiencing similar challenges, feelings and obstacles can become a rallying point for you and your team to work even closer together.

Holding each other accountable for creating and sustaining routines, structures and mindsets that support ourselves (and each other) is extremely important. whether that’s holding each other accountable to switching off from work at a particular time, or not talking about the news updates throughout the day or asking a colleague how their new morning routine is working out for them.

Consider new ways to support your team based on your strengths and skills. For example, maybe you’re a fitness expert and offer to host online morning workout sessions for your team or possibly your natural ability to bring humor into conversations will be a great way to increase engagement and enthusiasm in your next online team meeting.

We are much more likely to achieve our goals when we have a way to be held accountable, and if we start to embrace accountability within our team, we can continue to grow, learn and practice what best serves us and keeps us well during this time of constant change.

Read also

Be ready for whatever
the future of work brings
Stay up-to-date with the best practices on how
to build and scale best-in-class distributed teams
Product Management Today