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Tips to manage social withdrawal on remote jobs

Tips To Manage Esw On Remote Jobs Search Remotely

Do you want to know the truth about extreme social withdrawal (ESW) and remote jobs?  They can often go hand-in-hand. But, there are times when the myth of remote work, extreme social withdrawal, introversion; and the workers who prefer remote jobs can prove false. Do you want tips and the inside story on how to manage social withdrawal of your virtual workers? There is a longstanding myth than remote workers are generally introverts. The purpose of this article is to offer tips for managing remote staff experiencing social withdrawal. We will also define ESW, NEET, Freeters, and hermits to explore whether they prefer remote jobs.

The workforce is filled with lonely workers many do not work from home

When we think about social reclusiveness, we have visions of lonely people lacking true friends and close family. Harvard Business Review (HBR) estimates there are roughly 300 million people in the world who lack even one friend. Further, Clifton, author of the article cites data from Gallup to indicate almost 1/5 of the world’s inhabitants don’t have family or friends to rely upon when in distress. Are these people nature introverts?

Many believe that introverts derive a certain level of satisfaction from being alone. But, Psychology Today begs to differ. To be and introvert, they say,  an introvert is someone who can be re-charged when being alone, and when in the presence of others, can feel drained. Conversely, an extravert, they say is someone who becomes energized from being with others.  But, is this entirely so? Are these personality characteristic absolute? Not quite.

Some introverts  have a preference for reporting to an in-office workplace

Inc magazine, for instance, found out that introverts:

  • 74% prefer a hybrid office arrangement where they can report to the traditional office setting at least part of the work week, in comparison to

Similarly, extroverts:

  • 82% have a preference for the hybrid, part time office arrangement.

So, now we see the Myers Briggs strict delineation of the working conditions that can give power to introverted workers and extraverted staff vary along a continuum; never to be boxed in by stereotypical assumptions.

Worker perceptions of social isolation and loneliness are different and vary by country

To delve deeper, we looked into isolation, particularly. The research presented three distinct definitions which we will cover here. BMC Public Health offered details regarding loneliness and social isolation.

Research scholars posit the following:

  • People can experience the condition of being lonely and socially isolated,
  • People can also experience the feelings of being lonely but not feeling socially isolated,
  • People can be physically isolated from others, while at the same time, not feel the condition of being lonely.

In addition to variants of extraversion and introversion by schema,  other studies demonstrate that feelings of loneliness and isolation can vary by country.

In a peer-reviewed article appearing in BMJ, data from 24 studies was extrapolated from 106 countries. The results were astonishing.  As you can see from the video clip below, people all over the globe are feeling lonely and isolated. Within all of Europe, Moldovan, Ukrainian, Georgians,  and Russians appear to be experiencing the highest levels of loneliness.

Extreme social withdrawal (ESW) and implications for the remote workforce

Why do scientists study social isolation and loneliness? It has been said that humans are social animals. Much like wolves, we like to roam with our pack. Or maybe we’re like sheep, we tend to follow the herd.   Humans have also been keen to resemble the movement of birds; flock of birds fly together, for instance. The need to belong may be the foundational driver of human development.  So much so that the scientists, Baumeister and Leary (1995)  stated this need  to be “a fundamental motivation of human beings.” The two describe this need as the “basic desire to form and maintain enduring interpersonal attachments and relationships.” This is equally true for introverts as well as extraverts.

Even the need to belong is situated in the third of five rungs of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

What happens when members of the workforce do not follow standard norms?  Or, the conventions perceived as acceptable within a shared society? Psychologists could argue that they may have some form of psychopathology. The Clinical Child and Family  Psychology Review writes about a subset of young adults. This intriguing subset they’ve coined “Extreme Social Withdrawal” or ESW.

Factors giving rise to extreme social withdrawal (ESW) of workers

Researchers who have studied the ESW phenomenon profusely point to the following precipitating factors lending to its rise in society:

  • brain processes that have gone array (inability to read non-verbal cues, etc.)
  • temperament that could be predisposed to malignant spite and hostility
  • genetic and environmentally driven psychiatric conditions
  • dysfunctional family, friends and poor network systems of support  (bad parenting, negative peer experiences)
  • unrealistic societal pressures
  • excessive internet, social media, digital media and electronic device usage

Explanations of ESW and the working world

For our readers, we will focus solely on these two specific groups within the ESW category:

  • Freeter,  the freelance, gig worker, and independent contractor
  • NEET (young person not gainfully employed and also not involved with seeking or enrolled in education or training programs

Here are the distinct characteristics of each according to the survey designers:

Freeter as they relate to work, jobs,  and employment

A freeter is a person who has completed compulsory (at least 12 years of secondary education) and or matriculated with a college diploma. However, the main difference between a Freeter and NEET, is that the Freeter is earning money. Either from a part time job, low skilled or low wage job for which they are under-employed. Starting out, they may have had higher expectations for a better paying career, but life did not work out that way.  At present, they work in a restaurant, supermarket or in retail.  You may find young adults who have not yet lifted off in this category. And too, you may find those in their 30s who just never experienced a bounce or haven’t quite got into their own groove. The same researchers, as well as others; Kobayashi,, for instance, stress that to be a temporary Freeter isn’t that bad (2011). Freeters may be taking a Gap Year or “just want to enjoy life for some time before starting the ‘rat race’ of a working career.” NEET young adults, however, may be a different story altogether. Their prognosis for leading a productive, rewarding work life is not as bright.

NEET as they relate to work, jobs,  and employment

To distinguish between workers exhibiting work and non-work Freeter and NEET characteristics, Uchida and Norasakkunkit (2015)  developed the NEET-Hikikomori Risk (NHR) tool utilized by almost 8,000 participants to assess the following behaviors:

  • whether the individual holds a  negative attitude about work, school and life in general
  • whether the participant feels they lack competency and the ability to complete  work tasks effectively
  • whether the individual lacks clarity, ambition and motivation  for his/her future direction and competence

The results showed that respondents with the highest risk scores were those determined to suffer from ESW, followed closely by NEETs. The researchers concluded that marginalized young adults suffer the most from lack of belonging and are therefore most vulnerable to the possibility of experiencing extreme social withdrawal (Liew et al., 2021).

What can we do to prevent ESW? What might parents do to help their children and young adults avoid the extreme social withdrawal trap? The routine, mundane world of work provides benefits to self and society. Not only do workers collect a paycheck from partaking in work activities, we also find and derive a sense of meaning. For instance, a study by Gallup evidences that on average, a person spends roughly 81,396 hours or (the equivalent of more than nine years)— at work.

When looking at the data in this way, we can see that workers in the US are most likely to make friends while working “than any other way — including at school, in their neighborhood, at their place of worship, or even through existing friends,” according to the Survey Center on American Life. So, if you are a parent of a young adult who hasn’t quite lifted off yet, or met your lofty expectations after graduating from college, don’t fret. Even a part time, mediocre job does have it’s benefits. Even if the job doesn’t pay well financially.

Hermits as they relate to work, jobs, and employment

To bring this article full circle, we’d also like to discuss work hermits.  Back in 2012, The Journal of Royal Society of Medicine, well before Covid-19 pandemic and governmental policies promoting social distancing and social isolation, the movement to disengage from society.  The researchers sought to compare and contrast between ancient hermitism and the reclusive pursuits of modern man.  What they found were these similarities: societal dissatisfaction, never-ending compulsion to flee from society, and reports of a constant struggle to fight against the mores of society and the institutions upholding the establishment. The NYTimes chronicled the lives of two modern day advocates of hermitism. Today’s hermits may still work, but they work in professions with little to no human contact. Cleaning houses, data miners, data entry clerks, pest exterminators, farmers, and the like.  Rather than resorting to their electronic devices for relaxation and entertainment, they grow spiritually. Instead of picking up the phone or device to call a friend or post to obtain likes and comments on social platforms; they resort to meditation.  And should they choose to interact with others, they engage on their own terms and with time tables best suited to support their lifestyle.

Tips employers may use to prevent social withdrawal and remote worker disengagement

Regardless whether employers find their workforce to be populated by staff and contractors who occasionally withdraw from society, are introverted or extraverted, and or practice social/ work hermitism; Forbes offers these  here are tips to keep these particular employees engaged (we’ve added a few of our own):

  • Create a Slack channel or Discord discussion forum were remote, hybrid and virtual workers can freely express their non-work interests, favorite sports teams, alma mater / alumni clubs,  hobbies, pets, and travel pursuits
  • Organize, coordinate and sponsor virtual events and retreats on a regular basis (create a weekly social calendar devoted solely for the purpose of socializing)
  • Motivate and encourage getting together with other remote, hybrid, freelancers and contractors using co-working spaces, public areas, amusement parks, movies and low-key lunch dates
  • Encourage voice communications, by phone and video conferencing
  • Sponsor business association, professional certification, licensure,  networking and memberships in professional learning organizations
  • Establish a mentor and buddy system upon hire so that remote workers have someone to turn to, confide in, and ask for advice when feeling isolated and in need of guidance
  • Start a sports huddle and practice huddling daily so that remote team members can send positive shout outs and receive encouragement from their peers and supervisors in real time
  • Give virtual team members the freedom to utilize the benefits of working from home without negative repercussions
  • Host a pet pageant or bring your hobby to work day where interests and pets will be showcased every month
  • Spotlight favorite WiFi spots and co-working spaces and coordinate work schedules so that team members are apprised when other members are present and working at said spaces for informal meet-ups






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