Recognise the Signs: How to Recognise and Support a Colleague Who Is Feeling Isolated When Working Remotely

As COVID-19 swept across the world, many of us have found ourselves confined in social isolation. We’re working from home for the first time, separated from our friends and family and mourning the loss of a life we recognized.

If you’re worried one of your co-workers is feeling isolated, there are a number of things you can do to help. Read on to learn more about how to reach out to co-workers who are feeling lonely and help them connect through this pandemic.

Risks of Isolation

We know humans are social beings, and loneliness is hard on us. But loneliness can cause more than just feeling a little blue. It can have serious mental, physical, and cognitive health implications, especially over long periods of time.

Some studies have linked social isolation with everything from impair your immune system, depression and poor sleep quality to impaired executive function, accelerated cognitive decline, and even poor heart health.

Signs of Loneliness

So, knowing how important it is that we connect with other humans, how do you figure out if someone is lonely and isolated, especially through virtual communication? One of the biggest red flags is if someone’s behaviour changes suddenly and drastically. If the usual chatterbox becomes withdrawn or the steady worker starts missing meetings, it may be a sign of depression.

You may also find that someone either clings to any form of communication or rejects it entirely. They may drag conversations out or cut them short, if not avoid them entirely. You may notice these signs more in the elderly, the quiet, or those who live alone.

Be a Good Listener

Oftentimes, people who are lonely feel isolated because they feel like they can’t talk to anyone. Maybe they feel like they’ll be judged for what they say, or maybe they feel like no one will care. In either case, this feeling can lead someone to avoid conversations, which can be even more damaging when we’re in social isolation.

Reach out to your co-worker who you’re worried about and offer to have a virtual cup of coffee. When they begin talking about what’s going on in their lives, practice active listening. Encourage them to keep talking and let them know they have a safe space with you.

Help Them Set Goals 

During more normal times, many of us rely on certain goals and checkpoints to define our days. With everything shut down, many of our work and personal goals have been put on hold. We work towards that next holiday, to finish certain projects or get to the gym a certain number of times a week.

Helping your co-worker set some goals may be a good way to bring a little structure and connection to their life. Goals could include anything from completing a project at work to getting dressed in the morning; they should be SMART goals, and you may want to offer to work as accountability partners.

Reach Out to Someone Feeling Isolated

These times are difficult for all of us, and the only way we’re going to get through this is together. If you’re worried one of your co-workers is feeling isolated, reach out to them. Offer to work together virtually, and set up a support system to help them out. 

If you’d like to discover more resources for getting through the COVID-19 crisis, check out the rest of our site at Gallagher Basset. We’re experts in protecting your health during normal times, and we’re using that expertise to provide guidance during this pandemic.

Check out our blog for more advice on everything from how to stay in shape during quarantine to a full work from home toolkit.

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The information contained herein is offered as risk and claims management industry guidance and provided as an overview of current market risks and available programs and is intended for discussion purposes only. This publication is not intended to offer legal advice or client-specific risk management advice. General descriptions contained herein do not include complete definitions, terms, and/or conditions, and should not be relied on for claims management interpretation. Actual claims and risk management policies must always be consulted for full coverage details and analysis.

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