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.
Tony – Glad to see you posting again! I was starting to get a bit lonely! 🙂
Recently I’ve been trying to make a point of getting outside at least once per day. Fresh air does wonders!
I think all people that work from home have to learn how to balance real life and online work..its something that takes finesse. Thanks for this post!
I have to say that one of the reasons that the working at home appeals to me is the peace and quiet. Currently I work in an office with five other people and it gets a bit hectic sometimes.
Goes to show though, balance is where it’s at. 🙂
Life is a growing process. I’m also struggling with the same situation you are, but am discovering that outside groups are a way to meet and greet people.
Another outlet for meeting people is taking a class, something you’ve always been interested in, but never had the time. It can be very fun.
Excellent tips! This can certainly be a problem for home business professionals, but your tips are useful for anyone wanting to make more connections. One great idea is to planning an event is to host a neighborhood block party or BBQ.
Another tip. There’s a group of people that have organized to solve this exact problem. “Jelly”
To quote from the website. “Jelly is casual coworking. We invite people to work from our home [or local coffee-shop] for the day. We provide chairs and sofas, wireless internet, and interesting people to talk to, collaborate with, and bounce ideas off of.
You bring a laptop (or whatever you need to get work done) and a friendly disposition.”
Check out: http://www.workatjelly.com/ to find (or start) a Jelly group in your town.
I agree with everything said. I first started working at home 8 years ago and found it VERY lonely after a few months. I have no problems finding social outlets – but with a new business, new state and two new homes – ’nuff said!
After a detour for three years, I went back to working at home and I love it. And it has come in handy having kids!
This is wonderful advice for anyone facing loneliness (which can be a problem when you work from home). The people are out there, you just have to make the effort to get to know them.
You are definitely right when you say that people have a tendency to lose track of relationships. It’s really easy to just get stuck in your home. Before you know it, an entire year has passed and you have lost connection with the outside world. In order to maintain a balanced lifestyle, it’s important to still interact with other people and not just your computer at home. Besides, it helps keep your mind fresh and bursting with new ideas.
A very timely post, and one that I can relate to. Working from home in the day, study in the evenings, and blogging, pretty much made me some kind of hermit. Past few weeks I’ve been struggling to rekindle some old friendships. Thanks for the nice post.
Albert | UrbanMonk.Net
Modern personal development, entwined with ancient spirituality.
I hit up coffee shops when I can and do have a designated “office” in my neighborhood.
The idea of jelly mentioned above is great! I’m looking into that.
I’ve been struggling to achieve a balance since I started writing for a paycheck in May of this year. It’s been quite isolating so I often find myself grabbing friends for lunch dates. Not good for the pocketbook but oh-so-good for sanity!
Iâ€™m looking into The idea of jelly mentioned
I definitely struggle with the isolation, but when I’m busy, things go pretty well. Plus sometimes I invite over my neighbor to come over to work on her thesis sometimes. Having someone else in my little home office really helps me concentrate.
I read a blog entry from James D. Brausch, he has an offer for people who want to move to sunny Central America, and considering that I am sitting in the cold and rain of France, I want to take him up on his offer.
Patiently waiting for your return.
It sure can get lonely working at home promoting your business.I have made a time schedule that I follow, so there will be time for something else than work too.
Hello John, This is another great article from you! Thanks a lot!
Great work. Thanks for the information. Wow.
I work from home quite a lot as I am software developer and my employer is happy to let me stay home, so long as I remain legged in to the office network.
Even so I make a point of going out every day just be part of city life. The outdoors air and exercise is a tonic for both mind and body and being with other humans is nice too.
I am quite lucky to live next to a delightful park in Dublin called Merrion Square Gardens, sometimes (weather permitting) I work out there as I can still
use my home Wi-Fi connection. It’s nice to be able to stop working for a few minutes to chat to dog walkers or people from the nearby offices who are having their lunch. It stops my brain from getting clogged up with too many work details.
I really enjoyed this article. Most people have an idealized idea of what working from home is really like or if they really have the type of personality or discipline that it takes to be successful AND Happy in a non-traditional work environment.
Your right, it is really easy to become isolated from not only from friends, but from networking and whats going on in the world at large. I try to discipline myself to get and about with people the same way I need to discipline myself to actually “work” when working from home.
Thanks for your article.
Yes, I dearly miss the social interaction you enjoy in the office, whether it is standing around the water-cooler or seeing the boss! It all begins to remind me of EM Forster’s short story “The Machine”!
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