Isolated Working From Home? Try This!


As a telecommuter, you may feel isolated working from home.  To combat feelings of loneliness, you should take steps to stay in touch and stay healthy.

If you feel isolated working from home, turn to your support network for a fresh perspective.  Also, join a group in your community.  In addition, you should make sure that you go outside once in a while!  Finally, take the time to create the perfect workspace and take care of yourself.

Turn to Your Support Network

If you feel isolated working from home, your support network can help you in many ways.  Family and friends can take your mind off of stressful work projects.  Coworkers can assure you that you are not the only one struggling with a new job or new responsibilities.

Online communities can connect you to people in the same situation as you.  They might also give you advice about how to deal with isolation.  Your support network can help to give you a fresh perspective about work, and keep you from feeling burned out.

Family and Friends – Find Your Three!

Consider your family and friends, and decide on 3 people who can help you through the week.  Choose a “Monday Person” who will psyche you up for the week, and talk to this person on Sunday night.  You know you’ve chosen the right person if he gets you excited for Monday’s challenges, instead of dreading the workweek.

Also, choose a  “Wednesday person” to check in with midweek.  This person might have a job similar to yours, or face similar challenges at work.  Bonus points if your Wednesday person telecommutes!

Finally, choose a “Friday Person” to talk with at the end of the week.  Go over the successes and failures of the week, and talk about how you might do better next week.  You could meet this person for lunch, or have him over to talk in person.

This “Find Your Three” approach will build rapport with friends and family.  It will also give you something to look forward to at different points during the week.  In addition, it will help you to avoid feeling isolated while working at home.

Coworkers – Schedule a Virtual Lunch!

Find a telecommuting coworker that you would like to know better.  Ask this person to join you for a “virtual lunch” one or more days each week.  This means eating your lunch at the same time while on a phone or Skype call.  Use speaker phone or a wireless headset so you can eat and talk easily!

You can talk about any subject, work related or not.  You might discuss a challenging project at work, or a personal challenge.  These virtual lunches will help to build a strong relationship with your coworker.  They will also help you to feel less isolated at home, and give you something to look forward to midday.

Online Communities – Find Your Place!

You can find an online community for just about anything.  Whether you work as a doctor, lawyer, accountant, or carpenter, some type of online community for your profession will exist.  You can find advice from experienced workers if you have just begun your career.

On the other hand, if you have years of experience, you can guide younger workers.  You can also seek out online communities for people who have the same interests outside of work.  For example, search for communities involved in the hobbies or sports that you enjoy.

Finally, you will likely find a community of telecommuters online, who understand your struggles all too well!  You can do a Google search for your community, or you can check out telecommuting on Reddit.

Join a Group

If you feel isolated working from home, then find a group to join outside of work.  Start off with one activity per week.  Once you feel comfortable, increase it to two.  Soon, you will have a few new groups of friends!  You will also have something to look forward to during the week that breaks up the (sometimes monotonous) work routine.

Coworking Spaces

Coworking spaces are offices that do not belong to any one particular company.  Any freelancer, consultant, small business owner, or remote employee can work there.  There is a fee, either per day or per month, to use these spaces.

However, you might find that the fee for a coworking space is money well spent.  They often have a variety of professionals working there at any given time.  This is a great opportunity to network with other telecommuters.  It is also a chance to talk business with others in your industry.  You might even find people to hire, or who would like to hire you.

Clubs & Activities

Libraries often have book clubs that you can join.  You can read the book during the week or month, and discuss it with others at meetings.  You could also join an online book club and get the same benefit from home.  If you own collectibles, then you can join a group to discuss and trade these items.  Some popular collectibles include comic books, coins, and stamps.  Again, you could do this either in person or online.

Many activities outside the house will allow you to connect with others and blow off steam.  Yoga reminds you to breathe deeply, and can improve your flexibility.  You might also meet other people who have the same profession, or who also telecommute.

In addition, you can use websites to help facilitate activities.  For example, check out Meetup.com, where you can find role-playing clubs, board game clubs, video game clubs, and walking/running clubs.  You can find a group for just about anything you can think of.  If the group doesn’t exist, create it yourself!

Sports

This could be as simple as going to a basketball court and playing a pickup game.  You could also make up your own game.  This fellow did – we now know it as basketball!

You can also go to a gym and join a club sports league.  If none exists, you could ask the gym to start one, or start the club yourself!  You could also enroll in a class at the gym.  This is a great way to meet other people who want to stay in shape.  They might even be in the same boat regarding remote work!  In bad weather or off-season, you can talk online with other sports enthusiasts and learn to step up your game.

Local Politics

No matter where you live, you can find ways to join government at the local level.  Most towns will have some type of board or committee that matches your interests.  If you are a history buff, you could join the Historical Commission.  Maybe your interests lie in real estate and taxation.  In that case, you can run for the Board of Assessors.  If you want to work with the schools, you can join the School Committee.

Consider joining some of these appointed or elected boards and committees in your town:

  • Board of Assessors
  • By-Law Committee
  • Conservation Commission
  • Council on Aging
  • Cultural Council
  • Finance Committee
  • Board of Health
  • Historical Commission
  • Parks and Recreation Commission
  • Personnel Board
  • Planning Board
  • School Committee
  • Board of Selectmen
  • Sewer Commission
  • Zoning Board of Appeals

By joining, you will gain experience in local politics, and also give back to your community.  In addition, you will know more about what happens in your local area.  From a career perspective, it never hurts to have these experiences on your resume!

Volunteering

Volunteering in your local community can feel very rewarding.  It also gives you the chance to meet new people, and to make an impact starting at the local level.

Example

In my home town, the Civic Association organizes a summer concert series.  They stage the concerts at a park in town.  Each week a different musical act plays, sponsored by a local business or organization.

This gives town residents a chance to catch up with some of their neighbors and meet new people.  It also means that local businesses can give back to the community and raise awareness about their companies.

In addition to civic associations, you can volunteer to help maintain historical buildings or sites.  You might also participate in community cleanup days.  Food pantries and soup kitchens give you a chance to serve people in need.

Visiting with the elderly can give you a different perspective as well.  I find that older folks have a perspective that many younger people lack.  They also have wisdom that might disappear if they do not have the chance to share it with us!

Affinity Groups

Affinity groups in your area offer a great opportunity to join a group of like-minded people.  College alumni groups frequently hold meetings for alumni in major cities.  They also track down “lost” alumni and help to plan reunions each year.

You might also consider groups such as the Knights of Columbus, Elks, Lions, or Rotary Clubs.  These groups make community service a priority.  They might organize food drives, operate fundraisers for Boy Scouts, or assist in disaster relief.  Some of these groups have religious affiliations as well.  Either way, you will meet some very civic-minded people in these groups.

You can also join a group like Toastmasters, whose members commit to improving their public speaking abilities.  At each meeting, multiple members give speeches to practice their ability, and other members provide constructive feedback.  These groups can help you to avoid feeling isolated, while also improving your skills.

Go Outside

This may not be pleasant in the winter.

However, you can usually bear the weather from early spring to late fall.  Walking, running, hiking, and kayaking are some ways to meet people.  Having breakfast, lunch, or coffee at an outside space is another way to bump into new folks.

A Walk in the Park

Take a walk in the park on a nice day, and you won’t feel lonely anymore.  Even if you don’t say more than “Hello, how are you?” to anyone, you will feel less isolated.  In most cases, you can strike up a conversation with a stranger about something.  Start with small talk about the weather, and go from there.

Another surefire way to start a conversation is to ask if you can pet someone’s dog.  Better yet, bring your own!

People love to talk about their pets.  They will tell you the dog’s name, breed, age, favorite games, and any other information you might want to know.

Take a Hike

Just as there are walking, running, and cycling clubs, there are also hiking clubs.  You can join one officially, or just go to a place where people hike.  You will eventually stumble upon a group, and you can join them on that day’s hike.

On the Cafe Patio

Doing some creative work while you eat outside at a restaurant or cafe can spark insight and new ideas.  If you meet someone in your industry, you might be able to trade war stories and exchange ideas or tricks.

Make sure to sit down near people who are already working.  That way, you will have an easier time starting a conversation.  If you don’t know what to say, or feel awkward saying “Hi, I’m Jonathon”, don’t worry.

Come up with something non-threatening, such as “Excuse me.  I’m sorry to bother you, but do you know how to do XYZ in Excel/Word/PowerPoint?  I always forget where the button is!”

If they know, they can help you, and that might start a conversation about your project or company.  If they don’t know, you can laugh about technology troubles.  Then, you can start the conversation along another track by asking what they are working on.

Create a Perfect Workspace & Routine

If you feel isolated working from home, create a workspace that gives you a positive outlook while working.  This will help you to avoid feelings of isolation and burnout.  Also, create a routine that gives you breaks from work.  That way, you can return energized and optimistic about the day’s challenges.

Paint & Decorate

Find out what colors work best for you, and paint your home office accordingly.  Decide if your job requires energy or calm, and paint accordingly!  A brief color guide follows:

  • Red – energizing and exciting
  • Orange – enthusiasm, excitement
  • Yellow – reminds us of sunshine: uplifting, happy, cheerful
  • Green – reminds us of plants in nature: restful, calming
  • Blue – calming, relaxing, serene
  • Violet – reminds us of royalty: rich, luxurious
  • Neutrals (Black, Gray, White, Brown) – best used to accent other colors

Decoration also matters for your home office.  Think about the things that make you happy.  Then, find a way to incorporate them into your office!  This might include pictures of friends and family, or paintings of relaxing landscapes.

You might like to have a few houseplants, to go along with a green hue on the walls.  Here is one of my Umbrella Plants (Schefflera):

You can also include trinkets that you enjoy, such as coffee mugs, a nameplate, or a golden stapler.  Take your space, own it, and make it fun!

Sleep

Make sure that you get enough sleep so that you feel completely energized.  For one thing, you will perform better at work.  In addition, you will have the energy to pursue all of the opportunities described above.  Without enough sleep, you won’t have the capacity to play sports, join clubs, and engage with members of your community.

To get the best sleep, avoid things like caffeine, food, exercise, and screens (computer, television, and phone) late at night.  Drink your coffee before noon, and finish eating a few hours before bed.  Exercise morning or midday, and plan to do paperwork or read to wind down during the hour before bed.

Meditate

I try to meditate for 20 minutes twice a day, in the morning and at night.  Some people think of this as a waste of time.  However, some believe that meditation has more restorative capability than sleep.

Interesting Quote

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”.

(Attributed to Abraham Lincoln)

Translation: do not hack at a tree with a dull axe.  Instead, take a break to sharpen the axe.

The reason: you improve your efficiency with a sharper axe.  Let’s say you spend 40 minutes a day meditating, but finish your work in 8 hours instead of 9.  You spent 40 minutes meditating to spend 60 fewer minutes working.  Then you have really gained 20 minutes, by “sharpening the saw”.  If meditation makes you more efficient, then it does not waste time, but saves it.

Team Building

Companies often do team building activities in-person at the office.  This gives employees a chance to get to know each other, in the context of games and activities.  You will need to adapt team building activities for remote work, but it is possible.

One example would be to have everyone on the team read a book, and discuss it.  The book could be anything, but it might be more relevant to read one about your industry or company.

Another possibility is to have everyone on the team submit a random fact, by email, to the group manager.  Everyone would have to guess which fact matches up with which employee.  This gives you a chance to learn something interesting about your coworkers.

Conclusion

If you feel isolated working from home, try some of the advice above.  While avoiding isolation, you will contribute to your community, improve your skills, and become a better person.

There are other issues to consider, aside from loneliness.  To explore these further, check out my article on the pros and cons of telecommuting.

I hope this article helps with regards to isolation while telecommuting.  If you have any comments, please leave them below.

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