Here's Why Your Errands Are Even More Important When You WFH

Despite the fact that many companies are desperate to get us back to the office, lots of people still work from home. No commute, casual Friday every day, and no annoying co-workers. There are drawbacks that can start eroding your mental health though, including forgetting how to talk to people and being isolated for eight hours a day. One of the ways we can mitigate what being alone most of the week does to us is by consciously choosing to run our outside errands with purpose. That trip to the grocery store is far more important when it might be the only time we see others that week.

You can actually make those errands fun and use them to help reintegrate into the world at large. That's really important when your office mates are your cats and your houseplants. Let's take a look at some ways to make your errands benefit your social time as well. 

Practice your communications skills in the store

Remember that time you had a lovely conversation with a stranger in a grocery store? You both had a laugh over the person in front of you paying with pennies. You weren't wondering whether this person approved of your relationship or was judging your outfit. You just had a lovely conversation and went on your way. It all used to be so normal for us, but when you only see your pets and the UPS delivery person all day, it's very easy to forget how we talked during the "before times." 

When leaving the house to go run errands, open yourself up to the possibility of seeing people and talking. We're going to add that it's also a great opportunity to put on actual outside clothing, even if you're just adding some panache to your everyday sweatpants outfit. It helps keep our days from bleeding into each other because of the sameness of our conversations — if we're having them at all. 

If you're not ready to actually talk to people, commit to smiling a bit while you're out. It doesn't have to be at anyone — just smile for yourself, even if it's just in the car. Once you try it, you'll realize how infrequently you do it at home when no one is around. A 2022 study published in Nature Human Behaviour suggests that smiling might actually contribute to your real happiness (via ABC). 

The errand hang is a great idea

It might be time to focus on the "errand hang." It's a more common term outside of the United States, but it's pretty clear. You text a friend and ask them to keep you company and hang out while you run errands. It can be hard to find time in your day for socializing, even though the commute is gone. Many of us do more than one (or two or three) jobs in this gig economy, and often we leave the house only for errands, leaving little time to socialize. Why not combine them? Have to go out and grab a new vacuum cleaner? Recruit your friend after you're done with your jobs for the day and ask them to practice being human again in public with you. That way, you're not alone, and you can catch up and practice with each other. 

Look, being social after all this time away is hard. We're all going through it. Sometimes sharing the tasks you have to do can lift the perceived burden of it, get you both out in the sunlight, and remind you that the world still exists. It will make the time you spend working from home less of a hermit situation. Even if you're doing your errands alone, remind yourself to be open to meeting a stranger again and that other people exist outside of social media.