This is the first guest post from Jon Morrow.
Working at home is certainly convenient, but it can be dangerous to your social life.
With no job to drag you out of the house, you might find that you no longer have a reason to leave. Sure, you might hop into the car and grab some groceries, but that doesn’t involve any deep interaction with people. Neither do conference calls or business lunches.
It’s surprising, but after a couple of months working at home, the joy of freedom can actually wear off and you start to feel lonely.
Of course, it doesn’t affect all people. Lots of folks have such active families, friends, or hobbies that it never becomes a problem.
Others of us find it more difficult. If you’re single, living in a new town, or somewhat of a loner, you might not have any activities that naturally connect you with people.
It’s easy to turn into a hermit — someone that stays cooped up in the house for days or weeks at a time with no friends or real connection to the outside world.
Not only is hermit life emotionally unhealthy, but for most of us, it’s far from what we imagine when we decided to take the leap to working at home. We want freedom from the workplace, but we don’t want to turn into a recluse.
The problem is, maintaining relationships from home is a separate social skill, and no one teaches you how to do it. Because the isolation often comes as a surprise, you can also struggle to rearrange your social life into more healthy patterns.
The good news is you’re not alone. I’m a single guy that’s been working from home for 13 years, in one capacity or another. Here are some of the things that I do to keep from turning into a hermit:
Get to Know Your Neighbors
When you’re working from home, neighbors are convenient friends. They’re nearby, and you have lots of excuses to get to know them. You can:
- Ask for a favor – my favorite technique is to borrow an egg to make some brownies and then bring them a couple, straight from the oven. Talk about building goodwill!
- Join the HOA – If you have a homeowners association, get involved. Everybody will come to you with problems and suggestions, giving you lots of opportunities to talk.
- Hold an event – Host a community cookout, dinner, or football party. Everybody likes free food, and it’ll give you a chance to meet everyone at once.
A word of warning though. If you’re living in an apartment complex, you might find your neighbors are resistant to getting to know you. Usually, they have nothing against you; they’re just living there temporarily, and they don’t want to get involved.
It’s much easier if you live in a neighborhood where people are planning on staying awhile. In fact, I recently bought my own condo for this very reason.
Adjust Your Current Relationships
For me, another big surprise was the way working from home changed longtime relationships from college and past jobs. Before, we used to grab lunch or meet up at a business function and gab about office politics.
Not anymore. Fortunately though, there are still plenty of ways to continue your relationship:
- Talk about something else – Try asking about their family or future plans. You might find that they’d love to work at home, and you can tell them how.
- Invite them to dinner – You have more time now, so use it. Spend a couple hours preparing a gourmet dinner and invite your friends over. If they’re still in the rat race, they’ll probably enjoy the change of pace.
- Explain your situation – If they’re a good friend, tell them that you’re struggling to stay “connected” and ask for their help. One of my friends started inviting me to watch football with him, and I love it.
Most of the time, your friends will adjust. If they don’t, then you can either accept the relationship for what it is or start looking for a new network of friends that have similar lifestyles and interests.
Build Relationships with Similar People
When your life undergoes a significant change, it’s natural to drift away from old friendships, where you don’t have so much in common anymore. It’s just essential to develop new friendships with other, more similar people. For instance:
- Other people that work from home – Even if you don’t work in the same industry, you’ll probably have a similar lifestyle, opportunities, and challenges.
- Retirees – Lots of recently retired baby boomers are piddling around at home and would be delighted to have a new friend
- Entrepreneurs – Attend Chamber Of Commerce meetings and other functions for entrepreneurs. You’ll probably have a lot in common, as well as opportunities to share.
The best decision I ever made was to move into a luxury condo development filled with retirees and empty nesters. Most of them are trying to make the same adjustments, and they’re thrilled at the opportunity to make a new friend.
I’ve gotten to know so many of them lately that I’ve started having to turn off my phone and lock the door, just to get some work done. How’s that for a change?
The point is, if you find yourself becoming isolated, don’t make the mistake of believing there’s nothing you can do about it. You can. It just requires a little more initiative and a new approach to your relationships.
Besides, anything is better than becoming a hermit.
Jon has started three companies, managed over 60 people distributed across the world, and retired from two separate careers… all from home and by the age of 25. For tips about how to make more money in all walks of life, be sure to check out his blog, onmoneymaking.com.