It sounds like the ideal situation: You work from home, avoid a nightmare commute, spend the day in your shorts, set your own hours and get to do it all slumped in your favorite chair.
However, remote working can cause its own set of problems. True, being away from colleagues means you won’t be distracted, or suffer the office idiot. But it also means you risk becoming severely isolated, and all the problems this can bring.
A study of 1,100 remote employees has found that remote workers often feel left out. Without interaction with co-workers and your boss’s constant feedback, it is easy to feel uncertain and inadequate. For freelancers working from home social isolation can lead to anxiety and depression.
So, if you are considering taking the leap into freelance work, or are already part of a remote workforce, follow these 10 tips to beat working from home loneliness.
#1 Swap your stuff around
If you have to spend your working hours at home, make sure you do your other stuff out of the house, and do it outdoors if possible.
Instead of working out in your bedroom, go to the gym, or take a run in the park. If possible, don’t shop on the internet, go out in the evening or at weekends and actually walk the supermarket aisles. Call in at restaurants to book a table, and collect your parcels from the nearest click and collect rather than have them delivered to your door.
If you can’t dictate your own hours, make sure you still get out of the house whenever possible. This could mean meeting friends in a bar, or at a sports club.
#2 Install Instant Messaging Apps
You need Skype, or some other free instant messaging system that you can access on your workscreen. That way you can dash off quick messages to co-workers in the office, fellow home workers, partners, friends, and contacts. It is quicker and more casual than emails and text messages, and you can join in office banter and jokes, making you feel part of a community.
A decent communication system means you can also take part in teleconferences and virtually attend meetings. This is good for your productivity as well as your mental health.
#3 Take it out of the house
Just because you are not in an office, you don’t have to stay at home. Take advantage of the free wi-fi on offer at most coffee shops and install yourself there for the day. It is unlikely you’ll be the only one – you aren’t the only one suffering from working from home social isolation.
Just being in a different environment, with people coming and going and plenty of background noise, has an energizing effect and makes you feel more connected. Plus – fresh coffee!
You can work in the coffee shop, but, alternatively, you can work at coworking spaces. A recent study revealed that 70% of participants said that working at coworking spaces makes them happier. This isn’t as expensive as you would think. Most towns have drop-in coworking space on a weekly, or even daily basis. You get to look through a different window, sit at a different desk, and meet other lone workers doing the same thing as you.
#4 Take time out to talk
You may be working from home to help with childcare, or to help you and your partner achieve your work-life balance goals.
If you are the one at home, take time to talk when the rest of the family get in. Move away from your workspace and make a drink, even if it is just for a ten-minute catch-up.
Break your working day up by calling friends for a non-work chat. This will put your job in perspective and help you connect to the wider world.
If leaving the house is problematic, make the effort to arrange stuff at home, such as a games night or movie evening. Rustle up a big bowl of chili and invite friends over. You will soon find it becomes a regular thing.
#5 Check in at the office
It is a good idea to go into the office every now and then and touch base. Not only does it remind your co-workers what you look like, it can have other benefits. You will get a grasp on the latest office politics, get up to date with the gossip, meet new starters and generally feel more in the loop.
And, after a day commuting and drinking office coffee, you will realize why you prefer working at home.
#6 Break up your day
If you aren’t restrained with set hours, dealing with isolation when working from home is a lot easier. Instead of spending the day on your own, go out and connect.
Try a class in something creative – digital photography or a foreign language for example. You could also take up a voluntary job or do charity work.
The interaction with people from outside your sphere will keep your brain sharp – and the extra skills you will gain will enhance your CV.
Going outside – literally – can stop working from home isolation by making you realize there is a bigger world out there.
#7 Keep things tidy
It sounds wacky, but arranging lots of chores outside the home gives you a focus away from your surroundings. Plus, keeping your desk and your work area clean is also key to being able to get more work done and become more productive.
Psychologically, the sight of a messy area provides visual subconscious feedback that reinforces your perception that you are disorganized. It also leads to continuous distraction. Removing clutter and gaining clarity in life is essential to performing at maximum capacity. When you can perform the best, you will be proud of yourself and less likely to feel depressed or isolated.
#8 Act as if you were leaving the house
To feel refreshing every day, you should get ready each morning as if you were going to leave the house. That means waking up early, shaving, taking a shower, getting dressed neatly, having a cup of coffee with breakfast. So, basically, let’s just do everything as if you were going to the office.
Getting dressed not only make you feel more productive, but it can also boost how you feel about the work you are doing. If you feel refreshed and productive, you are less likely to be drowned into negative thoughts.
#9 Exercise for the soul
It is easy to get out of shape when your daily commute involves moving from the bedroom to the lounge, and the kitchen fridge is just next door.
You need exercise for your mental and physical wellbeing, so choose something that gets you out of the house and interacting with other people.
This means things like a circuit training class, a running group, five-a-side football or the local badminton club. It can also be a refreshing change to be in a group, with an instructor telling you what to do, after a day working on your own initiative.
#10 Man’s best friend
You know you’ve always wanted one, right? There’s no better time to get a pet than when you are working from home. Dogs are very responsive, always pleased to see you and provide company even when they are slumped, snoring, at your feet.
Dogs also need walking every day. This is brilliant if you have problems motivating yourself to get out of the house. Who can resist those appealing eyes? Break your working day up with a brisk dog walk, meet other dog lovers, and come back exercised, energized and with a grateful pooch.