By January 7, 2016 Read More →

The loneliness of home working

Loneliness of the home worker There’s a documentary on BBC One tonight called The Age of Loneliness.

It’s been made by Sue Bourne, who’s well-known and respected for her programmes that showcase the extraordinary stories of apparently ordinary people.

You might remember My Street from 2008 about the residents of Sue’s own London street, made when she realised she knew nothing about most of them, despite having lived there for 14 years.

Or Fabulous Fashionistas, which got a lot of attention in 2013, about six women with an average age of eighty who revel in their enjoyment of clothes and have developed their own distinctive styles.

I get the impression that Sue’s latest film is mainly about older people living alone, but I wonder whether she will interview anyone who works from home. After all, the possibility of becoming isolated is one of the best-known dangers of home working.

Plenty of us will agree with what Philippa Perry said in this excellent article Loneliness is dangerous last year – ‘feelings of loneliness trigger a state of hypervigilance for social threat, and when we expect social threat, we can behave in ways more likely to get us rejected. It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.’

In other words when we make a supreme effort to go to that networking event we feel the other people there aren’t interested in us, we find ourselves on our own when ‘everyone else’ is having lively conversations.

That makes it harder to attend another event, reinforcing the loneliness. And I’ve often talked about the inferiority complexes home workers tend to have, when other people appear to be so much more successful and accomplished.

There may be lots of places we can now go to work, but many – coffee shops, libraries etc – still mean being alone unless you are extremely confident and don’t mind striking up a conversation with a complete stranger.

Dredging up the motivation for a first visit to a coworking space can seem impossible when staying at home is so much easier. Jelly is a much more accessible option, but relies on the willingness of volunteers to keep it going.

I wonder how many home workers suffer from a form of loneliness, whether it’s professional, social or personal?

Posted in: Health

4 Comments on "The loneliness of home working"

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  1. What a great article! I find working from home very lonely. My time is punctuated by appointments, but not every day….sometimes 4 or 5 days will pass, and all I see are my cats and my sewing machine. I think it affects all areas of my life – I am by nature quite social, but now I find myself not as willing to get out, go out and network or just be social. Your article hit home for me!

  2. I think what you’ve written about feelings of loneliness and rejection becoming self-fulfilling prophecy is really interesting, I have certainly seen this pattern in my own life at times e.g. almost trying “too hard” at relationships and then being hugely disappointed when facing apparent coldness and rejection. Unfortunately, I think confirmation bias can also play a toxic role on occasions.

    I also have personal experience of loneliness contributing to the low-level state of alert and hypervigilance you referred to, so intense so that it manifested itself as severe back pain that went undiagnosed for a couple of years. Thankfully I am doing much much better now, but I still need to watch my self-talk when spending a lot of time alone, and have to remember how important it is to remain sociable and not feel guilty about taking breaks from work for social time. I have found building sociable things you enjoy into your weekly routine can really help – I’ve just started going to a fortnightly music creativity group on Monday afternoons.

    Thanks for the article, Judy! 🙂

    • And thank you, Sarah, for a very thoughtful response! Self-talk can so easily become negative and critical when we spend time alone, and often we don’t even realise we’re doing it, or believe that we are simply expressing the ‘truth’ about ourselves.
      It can be so hard not to feel guilty for taking time away from work, but experience has proved to me, as you’ve found, that it’s vital. In fact the times I’ve felt the least able to go out were actually the times I needed to the most. It can be a very tricky trap to get out of, so well done for taking action, and I expect you come back from your group feeling refreshed and inspired.