Working from home is on the rise, and more companies are trusting their employees to be more productive in their own home offices than they might be at their workplace. Yet the biggest complaint from people who work from home and home-based small businesses is loneliness. This is often due to the fact that many people who volunteer to work from home and those who start small businesses from home are unprepared for an isolated working environment.
Faster broadband speeds, innovative video-conferencing systems and avoiding long commutes are big contributors to this trend of working from a home office. According to a YouGov poll, researchers found that 21% of office workers now regularly work from home at least one day a week. However, the vast majority of home workers (who do not go into an office on a regular basis) are entrepreneurs, contract workers and self-employed. It is these types of people who suffer the most with loneliness and isolation because they don’t have the support of colleagues or the interactions and camaraderie they would normally receive in an office environment.
Working from home is not for everyone, but many of those who do may find that it actually turns out to be more productive. This can be especially true when they are doing highly concentrated activities such as writing, editing and researching. Working alone, rather than in a room full of colleagues, can be very productive – but again, it’s not for everyone.
So what can be done to prevent loneliness and isolation taking hold?
Develop a network and arrange to meet up with other home-based business owners for a coffee or lunch to get some social interaction. This way you can talk over problems or offer each other advice. Even a brief coffee meeting can get you back in the right mood to get things done.
Local business networking groups are a great way of linking up with other people who work from home. Most of these groups are free to join (some require a small fee) and can be a useful way of meeting people who are in a similar work position. The website Meet Up is a good resource for finding groups that are local and have people in similar situations. There are numerous groups aimed at entrepreneurs and self-employed people who want to escape the four walls of a home office for interaction and small business networking.
Working outside of your home office at least once a week can also be a good option. This is part of the reason that coworking business centres are becoming more popular. While there can be some collaborative aspects to these centres, they are a great way to not feel alone when working on your own. There are some people who will take their laptop computers to the local public library, simply because being in close proximity to other people will alleviate that feeling of isolation.
Consider walking away from that keyboard and your email and make a phone call or even a Skype call to colleagues or customers. This brings a more human interaction into your work day and can give back that feeling of being connected rather than isolated from human interaction.
Another way to deal with isolation is to have regularly scheduled activities that get you out of your home office. A few times a week, you can plan to go to a local coffee shop, the gym or even take a nice long walk during a lunch break. This not only breaks up the daily monotony of working alone, it could give you a chance to network with people whom you did not expect to be potential customers or clients.
There is no single way to completely eliminate loneliness when you work from home by yourself. But walking, going to the dog park, and meeting clients and co-workers away from your home office are just some of the ways of making it a less lonely experience. Remember that just being near others can make you feel more connected to the world outside your own personal bubble that you call your “home office.”