Island Syndrome

Island Syndrome: Remote Work in a Social World

Tropical waters, white sandy beaches, and fruity cocktails If these images come to mind at the phrase “Island Syndrome” you are either doing well with work-life balance or you are entirely burnt out! Unfortunately, the island we are talking about is closer to a deserted island than a relaxing vacation to remember. 

So, what is “Island Syndrome”? Whether you are working at a company that is young and rapidly expanding, a functional task force, or heading up a department, it can often feel like you are alone. Without anyone who shares your responsibilities or has your skillset, dealing with frustrations and challenges alike can align perfectly to make you feel you are on an island all your own. 

In 2020 working remotely became a forced reality for many of us and highlighted how much typical social interactions in the office impact our daily lives. It may seem obvious now, but unless you had experience working remotely, this was a massive adjustment. No longer can we “catch up” in the hallway, pop into the conference room for a chat, or give the full run-down from that leadership conversation over lunch. At the same time we lose touch socially, we also lose visibility into the daily tasks of our immediate teams and those further outside our day-to-day operations. 

You will find yourself connected to several people, professionally and personally, who you naturally interact with. Overall, your professional circle much like your social circle has shrunk without so much as a second thought. When was the last time I talked to John in Sales?  

How do we combat “Island Syndrome” both individually and as a company?

Hopefully the answer is obvious: communication. And no, we are not going back to the weekly virtual happy hours after a day full of showing my face on video calls! Instead, think about how to communicate for impact to those around you: 

  • Can you share an accomplishment or “win” that you are proud of, that would not have gotten attention otherwise? 
  • Can you mention the progress or successes of your team members for on-going projects? 
  • Do those around you know you are overwhelmed and have a lot on your plate? 
  • Are you empowered to work collaboratively with others, to consciously expand your circle? 

Many of us in the industry know the blueprint for handling mass communications during times of crisis. Products like Sendigo exist when you need to communicate vital information to your employees and coworkers. Those communication channels close once the event is over, leaving plenty of room for micro-communications to fill the void.  

We feel isolated when we do not have obvious communication paths upward/downward/outward, and it can sneak up on us before we know what is going on. Start by reaching out to your immediate team to first identify if this is a shared feeling that needs to be addressed. From there, simply brainstorming ways to create safe spaces for these conversations will carry you a long way!