By October 5, 2015 Read More →

Splendid isolation?

Splendid isolation - Heather Greig-Smith, Flexible BossWhat happens when the novelty of working from home wears thin?

Heather Greig-Smith of Flexible Boss magazine has a few solutions up her sleeve to make sure isolation doesn’t set in:

Working from home is, in some ways, like a relationship: those heady early days when you are released from the bounds of the office nine to five. You skip gleefully about the house, enjoying the concentration space and the feeling of control over domestic tasks that were previously crammed into evenings and weekends.

Fast forward a few years and it’s all a bit more mundane. The novelty of being able to hang out the washing in your lunch break is replaced by the realisation that… you’re hanging out the washing in your lunch break.

This is when working from home starts to require work. No longer is the cat enough of a replacement for water cooler chat. If you’re a remote worker for a large organisation there may well be solutions easily available to you – upping the number of days in the office, committing to weekly video calls with colleagues or just connecting with your team more frequently. As flexible working increases, HR departments are also becoming more attuned to the isolation and burnout that can befall the forgotten home worker.

But what happens when you’re freelance or a sole trader? Clients are not a replacement for colleagues. There’s no HR department to keep tabs, it’s all down to you.

Here are some of the things I find help combat that horrible feeling of isolation:

1. Remind yourself of the benefits.
When you’ve worked from home for a long time, it’s easy to take the benefits for granted – or even to stop doing the things you used to enjoy.

So if you used to sit in the garden on your coffee break, go for a run in the autumn sunshine or spend extra time with family and friends then make sure you still do. Reminding yourself that you couldn’t do these things if you had to commute to an office can be a powerful boost.

Splendid isolation - coffee shop working2. Work somewhere else.
Changing the scenery can be better than a break and taking some work to a local coffee shop, library or even pub can give you that buzz of life and social contact you might be craving and that counteracts isolation.

Perhaps you already do this but have fallen into the rut of always going to the same place – change your pattern for a new lease of working motivation and satisfaction.

My default cafes all have plenty of plug sockets for charging my laptop/phone/headset but recently I’ve taken to charging them all up at home and then venturing into new places just because I can. I’ve stumbled on some independents with little pockets of fellow laptop users and different cake.

3. Find some colleagues.
When you’re booking meetings and working with clients do mention where you’re based. I’ve been amazed at the number of people who live on the doorstep (and won’t forget the time I travelled into London to meet someone who I subsequently discovered lives five minutes away).

People who do commute will relish the opportunity for a legitimate lie in and a local meeting. On a few occasions I’ve also teamed up with fellow homeworkers. Share your kitchen table for all the benefits of being at home with added peer interaction.

4. Coworking events.
Another recent experiment for me, I’ve been delighted to discover the lively and welcoming St Albans Jelly on my doorstep. It’s embarrassing that it’s taken this long to get involved.

Once a month I can replicate a busy office environment, meeting other freelancers and business owners and working together for the day. Oh, and with the added benefit of being in a pub that has great food and coffee on tap. Still craving that office?

5. Coworking spaces.
My next adventure. When the once a month Jelly is no longer enough I plan to test out some coworking space opening up in my local town centre.

Coffee shop working definitely has its downsides – from the noisy toddlers screeching to the dash to the toilets while crossing your fingers your laptop will still be there when you return. My hope is that the new space could offer the flexible, affordable option this jaded home worker needs. Watch this space.

work from home secrets

Heather Greig-Smith is a freelance journalist, media consultant and the founder of Flexible Boss – a digital magazine for employers about flexible working and workplace change.

Her work from home essentials include very garish pink trainers (her words!) and Trello.

Posted in: Isolation

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