I have been a work-from-home freelance writer/author for about 15 years. The freedom is amazing and the flexibility has allowed me to work around my kids’ never-ending school conferences, concerts and sporting events. My husband envies my 30-second commute and my friends wish they could fold a quick load of laundry during their lunch breaks.
It is a good life. It’s also a solitary life.
I have no coworkers, no office parties, no company lunches. It’s just me and, when she drags herself up to the attic, my dog Iris. It can get pretty lonely.
Sure, I could rejoin Corporate America but I’m smart enough to know that not all co-workers are good co-workers. So, instead, I turn to these tried and true tips for battling the isolation. If you’ve felt it, you should try them too:
- Plan Lunch Dates
When I first started working from home, I pledged to set up one lunch date per week. Pretty soon, work got busy enough that I switched my goal to a biweekly luncheon, then monthly, then – well, you get it. Priorities. Whenever you start feeling you can’t spare 60 to 90 minutes to talk with a friend about something other than work – that’s when you most need a break. Commit to a schedule. Start with two dates – for lunch or walking or coffee – each month and, if you can, build from there.
- Work Off Site
I’m not at my most productive when I write in a coffee shop. But sometimes it’s less about productivity and more about being around other people. Pack up your stuff and work off site for a morning or afternoon each week. Greet others in the coffee shop or library or shared office space. Before you know it, you’ll begin to know regulars and conversation will blossom. Let it.
- Look for Reasons to Get Out
As a writer, I can conduct many of my interviews over the phone. It’s easy. It also adds to the disconnected feelings I sometimes get. Whenever possible, I try to meet up with the subjects of my research. Researching copying costs? Drive to the store instead of looking online. Looking for a book? Spend some time at the library instead of ordering it online. At least a couple times each week, come up with a “business” reason to get out and about.
Join a group like Rotary or Toastmasters. By attending regular meetings, you’ll make new connections – some of whom may be potential clients and others who may, like you, be looking to build a support network. Don’t join the first club you come upon. Look for one that aligns with your interests and has members with whom you’d like to spend time.
- Turn on the TV
I admit it. I have the TV on in my office all the time. I rarely watch it, but the noise makes me feel like I’m not completely alone. This background “conversation” helps keep me sane. Music doesn’t have the same effect for me – I need to hear other people talking. I’m not picky about content; I’ll play shows about cooking, home décor, reruns of 1980s TV shows. My only rule is that if the show is so interesting I find myself actually watching it, I need to switch channels.
What are your tips and tricks for battling work-from-home loneliness?