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Combatting the Loneliness of Remote Work

Over the holidays, I got to spend some quality time with my parents and my derpy puppy, Bodhi.

And I had a DUH realization: I miss being around people!

Being Chinese-American, I come from a family where you’re together all the time.

Conversely the Western world places a huge premium on autonomy and self-reliance.

But we know that being lonely has the same health impact as smoking 15 cigarettes daily. Studies show that people with fewer relationships die earlier.

Let’s admit it: being around people feels good. And working around people feels good.

In a remote world, I’m seeing lots of folks getting lonely and losing steam working alone. They start to wonder, “What’s the point if I’m miserable daily?”

Soon enough, loneliness combined with the long days and drama of work starts to add up to burnout.

So how do we get that elevated energy from working around others, especially when you’re remote?

It’s called “body doubling:” a strategy where you do work alongside someone else doing work.

The other person, your “double,” acts as an anchor and accountability presence for you (even if all they are doing is working at their laptop).

Being around another person also elevates the energy of a space.

And this strategy doesn’t need to be in-person. I’ve been FaceTiming my friend in Los Angeles just to get my body double time in.

Here are my guidelines to a successful body doubling session:

  • Have a group of 2-3 people who you can call or text when you have a block of non-meeting time. That keeps your options open.
  • Pick your double(s) carefully. Find go-getters with fantastic energy to work alongside you.
  • Don’t get stuck in long conversations. Set that expectation up front.
  • If you do want to ask someone for help, be explicit in getting their permission to break their focus. Remember that this is more about doing solo work together than helping others with their work.

Happy body doubling!

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