Topic 1 | What Is Remote Work Isolation?

The Gloomy Side of Remote Working: What Causes Remote Work Loneliness?

Remote working sounds like the coolest gig because you can theoretically do it from anywhere. Whether you choose to spend all day coding in your pajamas or answering customer service emails by the poolside on a summer afternoon, it is all possible.

However, there is a potential downside to working from home. While it is not very common among Filipino remote workers (with the cultural norms that involve living with your family until you get married and sometimes beyond that), it does pose a real threat to both your productivity and your health.

We are talking about the dangers of remote work isolation.


What Is Remote Work Isolation?

Workplace loneliness is not exclusive to remote workers, but they can be especially vulnerable to it simply because their team is not physically present most of the time.

Isolation sets in when you start to feel listlesslonely, and inexplicably exhausted. Those who are suffering from remote work isolation may feel as though they exist in a bubble, far removed from those around them, and this feeling can lead to heightened anxiety and depression as well as a lack of motivation at work.

The good news is, if you are a Filipino remote worker, the isolation can actually be beneficial. Since our cultural norms make it possible to drop in on friends and family without prior notice, some Filipino remote workers actually welcome the silence and the isolation that remote work brings. In an online discussion about whether working from home makes you feel isolated from others, 68% of the Filipino respondents claimed that they rather welcome the solitude.

Many of them cited that they prefer isolation to sitting in traffic or dealing with toxic people:

“I love the isolation. I get to choose who I give my energy too, choose my time and have the freedom to express myself without [sic] the validation of other people.” – Sheila M. 

A prevailing sentiment was “alone, but not lonely,” mostly because most Filipinos continue to live at home long after they finish schooling, hence the family is never far away.

Some have also cited that the presence of virtual friends helps make the working experience a lot less lonely. That is, if the remote workers actually have time to chat. Those who do not may feel more anxious and isolated:

“….I feel isolated all the time since my husband works in an office-based. So the only time I could have someone to talk to personally is when he gets home. Sometimes I don’t have time to chit-chat my virtual friends due to workloads.” – Judith M.

Extroverts may also find the isolation especially trying:

“I’m an extrovert….I feel isolated sometimes especially when I’m working while travelling because I don’t really know the people around me (This is also why I prefer to stay in hostels when abroad, you get to meet other solo travellers). But when I’m in the Philippines, I make it a point to meet friends every two weeks and I try to chat up my colleagues often while working. Otherwise, I’d go crazy.” – Miko E.


Kinds of Remote Work Isolation

So, people can have different thresholds for feeling isolated and anxious. However, we also need to recognize that there are quite a few components that comprise remote work isolation. These are:

  • Social Isolation – This is the first thing that comes to mind when we talk about isolation. Feeling cut-off from society or even one’s loved ones is quite normal if you have been working remotely for a while, and have not really prioritized visiting friends or family. Virtual chats with colleagues are great and can tide you over on work days, but humans do need face-to-face interaction every once in a while as it would be hard to communicate affection and esteem through the written word.


  • Resource Isolation – Resource isolation occurs when a remote worker does not have the same tools or access as his or her teammates. Not having access to the team’s messaging app, for instance, would mean that the person is kept out of the loop most of the time. Since the Philippines is a developing country, some of the technology and software used by companies abroad may not be available here. Thus, if a Filipino remote worker is left without access to such for long, s/he may start to feel isolated from the team and the ongoing work as well. Also, remote workers do not have the same access to materials like traditional office workers do. They cannot just swing by HR to pick up and fill out forms to apply for a leave or head on up to the second-floor to print their output. In most cases, remote workers need to come up with their own resources for similar tasks, and this too can be isolating.


  • Opportunity Isolation – Some professionals opt out of remote working out of fear that they might miss out on advancement opportunities in the workplace because of it. For instance, if there is an upcoming promotion in the works, people are more likely to think of those they see in the workplace everyday, regardless of performance. Remote work isolation can also be detrimental in round-table discussions about an employee’s performance, especially if those involved are not privy to that employee’s work.


  • Development Isolation – One of the perks of working in an office is that you get to silently observe how your colleagues move up the ranks, particularly the strategies they might employ in the process. This contributes to one’s overall career development as you get to compare your output, compensation, and goals with those around you to ensure future advancement. The same is not so easy for many remote workers as they often have to work on their own. Some, as a result, experience career stagnation.