Before we get started on the potential issues, we should review all of the wonderful things about working for yourself!
- Low overheads if you work from home -sweet!
- No horrible commute to get through twice a day
- Total control over your workload and your workstation (it could be the sofa…or your bed!)
- No forking out for a corporate wardrobe
- Office politics is a thing of the past
- More family time – winner!
- Using your talents and hard-earned experience in a way that works for you
Sadly however, loneliness at work is still a taboo topic of conversation. Indeed, loneliness is a nationwide problem full stop and has been attributed to a shortened life span. It’s important that we recognise the devastating consequences of NOT openly talking about it and start making a concerted effort to address the issue. Home-based workers are not immune to the mental health problems attributed to feelings of loneliness so let’s talk about it together and find some solutions!
So, despite all of the wonderful advantages of home working there are certain factors that need to be challenged and redressed.
PROBLEM– Working for long stretches – we’re all guilty of this one! We get ‘into the zone’ and before we know it we’ve been working steadily on a project for hours, barely lifting our heads from the keyboard to find out what day it is, nevermind what time it is. Working like this is not only detrimental to our posture but in the long term will affect our concentration and brain power.
SOLUTION– Consider using the Pomodoro Technique. Named after the commonly used tomato-shaped kitchen timer, this method recommends working for 25 minutes followed by a 5 minute break. You can amend this to suit your working style, for example setting the timer for 50 minute stretches followed by a short break. During your break, get up and stretch, walk around, make a cuppa. Maybe go into the garden for a breather. As long as you leave your workstation!
PROBLEM – Not seeing other people for lengthy periods – we’re getting to the crux of the issue now. Working from home is a solitary game and talking to the cat doesn’t count. Outside of phone calls and Zoom meetings, we often don’t speak to another human in the flesh until our loved ones arrive home. It’s easy to get lost in your own head; niggly thoughts become major problems and before you know it you’ve created a drama where there wasn’t one.
SOLUTION – When planning your week, add in some time outside of the home. Instead of a Zoom meeting with a local client, suggest meeting them in a coffee shop. Even if you’re not meeting anyone, pack up your laptop and find a nice quiet spot where you can work and treat yourself to a delicious lunch. Support your local library and set up shop there!
Meeting other solo workers can be a wonderful morale boost so check out networking groups that operate in your area and attend a meeting or two. Generally speaking, networking groups will allow you to come to a couple of meetings before you have to sign up as a member. They are incredibly supportive and an excuse to get out of the house!
Finally, schedule some time for a walk. It’s easy, it’s free and it will help. Listen to a podcast or listen to the birds; it’s a fantastic way to unwind.
PROBLEM – Lack of structure. No matter how much we used to complain about our office jobs, at least we had a system in place and were pretty sure of what was expected of us (the lucky ones, anyway!). Working for yourself means no line manager, no supervisor, and often no work plan. A lack of structure will, in the long term, lead to stress and poor performance. This will have a adverse effect on your wellbeing and may even (horror) lead to a craving for an office job.
SOLUTION – Have you heard of the wonder that is ‘task batching’? Basically, it’s a system that advocates batching together a number of similar tasks and completing over a set time period. It works by focusing on one type of work and putting all of your effort into it. What we are all guilty of doing is flitting between very different tasks whilst checking our emails and social media at the same time. You’ve been there, right? Sixteen different tabs open on our laptops? It’s exhausting! Our mindset is all over the place and we find that by 5pm, we haven’t actually completed one solid task. This leads to dissatisfaction and a distinct lack of calm at the end of the day. If we take time to plan task batching we will increase our productivity and create structure. Give yourself half an hour on a Friday afternoon or Monday morning and think about the work week ahead. Are you more creative in the mornings? Then batch your more creative tasks from 9am-12pm. Maintain that one mindset and you’ll find yourself doing your best work.
I hope this has been encouraging and remember, you’re not alone! If you have any amazing tips for combating loneliness, then please get in touch and I will share online! firstname.lastname@example.org