Combating individual loneliness within teams while working remote

This is guest post by Michele Paulichuk, a software developer on the team at Punchcard. Now that many organizations have moved towards remote work using tools like Microsoft Teams and Zoom, how are you working to build connectivity with your team without the water cooler? Michele shares some of her thoughts and ideas.

Amongst the growing outbreaks, there is an effort to flatten the curve of infection and lessen the strain on our health care resources. Our governments are asking us to practice social distancing, while companies have engaged in remote working solutions to keep their businesses going.  

Initially, you may think this is great: it will be a little retreat from all the social engagements you may normally commit to. You may be excited about being able to enhance your work environment with the comforts of home (or maybe not having to deal with annoying co-workers!) However, this isn’t likely to be just for a few weeks., and after some time, loneliness might sneak in. What can you do? How do you combat it? 

Here are some ideas to help combat the loneliness. This will help your mental health and well-being, important in helping your immune system fight off illness. 

Create a buddy system 

Coordinate with a co-worker to schedule check-ins throughout the day. Do a quick chat and ask how things are going, if they need help with anything, or even something random. Use this as a break from work, since it can be easy to get too focused when by yourself.

Editor’s Note: As Coach Ken Larson has pointed out, while we may already be engaging in weekly one-on-ones as managers, while we’re working at distance, we may need to increase the frequency (while reducing the length; sometimes 15 minutes a day can be enough).

Use video conferencing tools for meetings and communication 

There are number of solutions for video conferencing. Seeing someone’s face helps improve communication, and in turn, creates a bond and connection that isn’t otherwise there. 

Create a “virtual” watercooler 

One of the things that limits the monotony and creates culture is small talk with co-workers through out the day. Using one of the various online chat tools, create a group chat that is for non-work-related chatter.  

While it could be just a space to ask about how people’s days are going or talk about the weather, here are some other suggestions for content: 

  • Post and discuss positive articles, like the articles on space or scientific discoveries. 
  • Post a question of the day, for example, “What’s your favorite food?” It’s a great way to get to know your co-workers. 
  • Post pictures of your home work setup or work-at-home companions (pets, kids, spouses, etc.) 

Editor’s Note: In Microsoft Teams or Slack, you can accomplish this by setting up a specific channel within your organization for #watercooler-talk, make use of the #random channel.

Organize a virtual lunch

Work is an important part of our social lives, and often, we spend valuable time connecting with our co-workers over lunch. While working remote, we might not get the same routine. In fact, there might be days that lunch gets missed because we don’t have the same reminders.

Work with your team to create a virtual lunch, using one of your existing chat or conferencing tools. (However, you may want to mute yourself while chewing.)

Listen to music 

You maybe the only person in your living space, which could make the environment very quiet. Which can add to the feeling of isolation and make you lonelier.  

To break up this monotony, try playing some music. I would suggest something up beat, since this would probably pick up your mood and make you feel more energized. You could also sing to it. I mean why not, it’s not like there is anyone listening to you. 

Editor’s Note: You can also try building playlists on Spotify, Apple Music, or Google Play, and share them with your colleagues.


This is an important item for working remotely and not just for combating loneliness. It’s easy for communication to be lost when you don’t see your teammates around an office. You will want your projects to stay on track and teammates informed. Plus, it’s a way to build better connections with the team. You will find that these little interactions will make you feel less alone. 

Start by creating a group chat for your team, and post updates on:

  • Updates on work tasks and deliverables
  • Checking in with other people to see if anyone needs help
  • Communicating thoughts or questions about your work

Talk to your new officemates

Yes, we’re talking about your pets: they’re great listeners and could possibly help you come to your own conclusions on problems. Plus, they are cute and do funny things. All great for feeling less lonely. 

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