Recently, one of my colleagues posted this update in a Facebook Group we belong to:
“Do any of you ever get tired of your whole work-life being online? I'm starting to think that my nagging depression is related to not working in the real offline world. I'm starting to consider changing to start a business or job where I get to talk to real live people”.
Working from home has its merits. The flexibility to plan your work around your life, not the other way round, the control you have with the flow of your work and the hours you add back to your day from not having to commute further than the stroll from your bedroom to your office (or dining table).
With all these advantages, why isn't everyone clamoring for this work arrangement?
Working from home has one big drawback that burns people out and makes then depressed, and that's social isolation and loneliness.
In a survey of 258 women working from home, isolation ranked as their number ONE frustration with this work arrangement
Working in perpetual loneliness is only for a select few. Most of us crave social interactions and being part of a community.
So, is there a way to have your cake and eat it too?
Can individuals work-from-home and still get the social interaction they crave?
We have 10 practical tips for achieving both with success.
Practical Tips for Dealing With the Isolation of Working From Home
1. Go Back to the Office (On Your Terms)
If you are working in the corporate environment, you might be able to find a position within your company that has you working from home most of the week and coming to the office 1-2 days a week.
If you run the show, as in, you're the boss, or you operate as a freelancer, you could join a coworking space and get the feel of having co-workers around you. Because more and more individuals are working from home and feeling isolated, coworking spaces are popping up everywhere.
Here you can work in an office-type environment, getting access to things like WiFi, printers, conference rooms, and fax machines. You can choose to work in these spaces by the hour, day, week, or month for a set fee. Not sure where to find a working coop? Try looking at this list of global coworking spaces.
2. Put Your Local Library to Use
You have probably heard of people working out of the coffee shop. Been there, done that. The coffee shop ambiance and background noise or music may not work for you. If you work better in a quieter environment and you are not meeting up with clients, the library is an excellent off-post workstation for those days when you feel like having “co-workers” around you.
3. Organize or Attend Meet-Ups Around Common Interests
Go to Meetup.com to search for active meet-ups in your locale focused on your interests. If there are none, you can start one. Here is another library tip: most libraries have meeting rooms that can be booked ahead of time for these kinds of meetings. There might be a nominal fee, if any, to use the library's meeting rooms.
4. Attend Live Industry Events
It was rumored that with all the remote meeting capabilities cropping up daily, that there would not be a need for industry events. This has not been the case. The reality is that technology emphasized our need for human interactions even more. You get to connect with peers, mentors, customers, and vendors at industry live events which go a long way in minimizing the isolation of working by yourself.
5. Don't Care for the Chamber, Try These Alternatives
Your local chamber of commerce and the many programs they put out can help you get the necessary camaraderie you crave, but if you find this setting too stiff, or too overwhelming for you, try out any one of these alternatives;
- Your local SCORE office
- Your local small business development center (local outposts of the small business administration)
The folks at SCORE and small business development centers also provide free business consultations.
6. Online Socialization
While nothing beats good old face-to-face interaction, online socialization can be a great filler for when you're unable to meet in person. With the explosion of social networking sites, there is no shortage of online platforms to meet new individuals. If you're looking for a more niche site, just try Googling or doing a Facebook search what you're looking for – there's a good chance you'll find exactly what you're searching for.
Here are a few of my faves:
If you're using Twitter, consider joining in one of the many weekly chats that happen on the platform. Twitter chats (sometimes called parties) are usually an hour in length and focus on one topic that revolves around a specific hashtag so participants can follow along and participate.
Here are a couple of places that list Twitter chats:
7. Use Technology
If you're unable to meet face-to-face, try using technology to bridge the social isolation gap. Platforms like Skype, Zoom, and FreeConferenceCall.com offer their services for free, and you can meet one-on-one or in a group format. Of course, you'll need to have a computer with a webcam or a smartphone where you can download the corresponding app. Having weekly meetings in this format can promote better collaboration and team cohesiveness. You can even use these platforms to host virtual parties or to connect with family and friends who don't live near.
8. Become a Mentor or Volunteer
If working from home is driving you stir crazy, consider getting some social interaction by mentoring or becoming a volunteer. There are opportunities in a wide variety of niches, and often can be done in-person or online. For instance, SCORE uses volunteers to mentor new entrepreneurs and small business owners so they can see greater levels of success. They also use volunteers to teach workshops and assist in support roles. Don't want to leave the house? Consider volunteering at one of these online organizations that need help.
9. Get a Hobby
If you're not already involved in any extracurricular activities, now is the perfect time to explore some of your passions.
Love fitness? Join a gym or yoga studio. If you don't feel like leaving home, you can always join a monthly subscription service like Peloton, where you'll have access to live and on-demand fitness classes. Their app has thousands of classes in disciplines like running, strength training, cycling, yoga, and even outdoor workouts.
Got a passion for reading? Then consider joining a book club where you get together once a month to discuss a common book. You can find local book clubs on Facebook, at libraries and bookstores, and on Meetup. If you prefer an online group, this post has a list of online book clubs you can join.
Whatever your area of interest, there is a club (online or in-person) where you can connect with others and fulfill your need for social interaction.
10. Meet a New Friend
While working from home is more popular than ever, there's still a large portion of society that has to go into an actual office. If you're a remote worker, but don't have any friends or family with the same sort of schedule, use the app Shapr to meet other like-minded professionals. Set up like many popular dating apps, Shapr allows you to browse through other professionals and connect with the ones that seem like a good match. You can use the app to network, meet new friends, or even find a mentor.
If you struggle with the loneliness and isolation of working from home, try any one of these pointers and see if you feel better. If you don't feel better in time, it might be a signal to take your work outside of the home.
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Originally published May 15, 2015. Content updated in March 2020 by Holly Reisem Hanna.
Dr. Bola is a family physician with a fondness for women's health and women's lifestyle issues. She is the co-founder of Healthgist.com, the hub for honest health talk for busy women.