As mentioned in last week’s Work Smarter Tuesday’s post, this week we will touch on a really common problem for those working from home:
The Loneliness Factor.
In my situation anyway, the initial thought of working from home brings joy to our eyes. No more lousy commute, no more co-worker drama, no more whoever breathing down our necks. Finally we can work on our own terms, in our sweatpants or pajamas or naked if we really wanted to. It’s a little slice of freedom.
However, working from home comes with it’s own set of problems. Spouses and kids that get in your way (or in the way of that very important phone call), balancing house work with real work, people thinking because you are now home it’s like you are on vacation., etc, etc.
But loneliness isn’t something we think of off the hop usually. Sometimes we ride the work-at-home train for months without it becoming an issue. Then all of a sudden one day, you’ve realized that you might be going crackers. Or that you have been living in your pajamas. Or you actually miss that co-worker drama. At least there was someone to talk to.
Once, after a busy week at the home office, I was overjoyed to be getting out to a BBQ. But after about 5 minutes of small talk, I realized I hadn’t really small talked with anyone in about a week and a half (kids and partners don’t count…that’s not small talk). I felt like I was out of practice, choppy with my words and a bit weird. I really needed to get out more.
I’ve come up with a few ways to beat the loneliness factor when working from home. Fitting these things into your schedule is actually fairly easy, and I guarantee will make for a more enjoyable, balanced, and productive week. (I am always more productive when I am content and balanced). We are social beings and need to take this into account in any work situation.
Beating the work-at-home loneliness factor
Networking Meetings – In general, I’m not a huge fan of certain networking meetings. Sometimes it’s like a room full of sharks making ridiculous small talk, trying to score business cards (and business)…not really too concerned about who you really are. BUT, some of them can be productive and totally necessary. Lunch and Learns for example. Check out a few networking groups and see which ones fit your style better. This also kills two birds with one stone: not only are you getting out and socializing, you are also marketing your business/service/product as well. I try to get out to at least 1 networking meeting a week.
Working from a Coffee Shop – Sometimes if I need to sit and write, or catch up on social media, I head to a coffee shop for an afternoon. Having people around creates a bigger energy than just sitting at my desk at home, and people-watching (and listening) can be enlightening. Chances are many other people in the same boat are there working as well. Sometimes connections are made that way. A word of caution: never do/send majorly confidential client work while working on a public network. Save this time for working on lighter stuff.
Time with Friends – Sometimes if we get really caught up in our family lives or work, time with friends can fall to the wayside. If this happens to you too, take the bull by the horns and connect with people you know at least once a week. Meet for lunch, throw a dinner party, meet for coffee, start a book club. This could be on a weekend, weeknight, or during a slower day. Don’t wait for people to come to you, reach out and make the connections…they may be in the same boat.
Share Office Space – Flexible, shared office space can be a great option for those who get super stir crazy at home. Places like Regus offer executive office space (or just lounge areas) for a very affordable fee per month. Their offices are usually beautiful and offer many bells and whistles. For the creative types, a “Co-Working” arrangement can be beneficial. These spaces offer a desk but usually in an open concept environment, encouraging communication and collaboration with other members. Both of these options offer the opportunity to use their other facilities throughout North America.
Keep Your Hobbies – You may ask, “why wouldn’t I keep my hobbies?”. Sometimes we find ourselves in a level of comfort (or overwhelm) that we come up with excuses NOT to go to the gym, book club, riding lesson, insert hobby here; not just when we work at home, but any other time that we are particularity tired/comfortable/overwhelmed. My point is that because you work at home, this is even MORE of a reason never to skip these things. Squish your ego and drag your butt to the gym. You will feel 100% better for getting out and meeting your commitments than if you stayed home and wallowed in the whatever-you-were-wallowing in.
Now you may be wondering why social media isn’t on this list. Although we live in a “virtual” world (hey, my business is based around this concept entirely), there is still something to be said about personal human interaction. We can’t loose that, people! We are social beings who are meant to mingle at some points in our lives. If we lose touch with that, I personally believe we are screwed. So yes, doing everything online is amazing for many reasons, and there is nothing wrong with social media, BUT if you put your whole social experience into that category entirely, you will be doing yourself (and probably your business) a great disservice.
As I mentioned in the last post, keeping a schedule of your week is a really important part of maximizing your efficiency while working at home. But also take the time to schedule a bit of play or socialization as well. This isn’t a want, it’s a need! You may find you have better stress levels and more creative ideas when you get out and mingle. I know I do.
Until next week…