We all have those days when we just want to be left alone. The constant distractions and interruptions mean we feel like we’re not getting anywhere.
But as a freelancer, or self-employed person working from home, too many days like this can be really lonely. Especially if you come from a corporate background and are used to the team environment.
Whether you’re a natural introvert that loves time alone, or an extrovert who thrives on the company of others, is pretty much irrelevant. There will come a time when you realise you haven’t seen anyone for a certain length of time and you’re feeling a little, or a lot, isolated. For the extroverts, this may be only a few hours, for the introverts it could be a few days – we’re all different. But it does hit you. Actually, it kind of creeps up on you. I know, I’ve been there. And I daresay anyone who’s been self-employed for even a few months will understand.
In fact, a recent study reports that 39% of self-employed people have felt lonely since becoming their own boss.
Feeling lonely and isolated can have many effects:
Motivation can take a hit
Procrastination creeps in more and more
Your health can suffer – even the common cold can feel worse!
Creativity can plunge as you don’t have anyone to bounce ideas around with
You can start to feel stuck with your work
You may have low moods, increased anxiety or even depression
All of these spell potential disaster for the stay-at-home entrepreneur or freelancer whose livelihood depends on being productive.
As a coach I work with a lot of self-employed people, and as a self-employed person myself, I have experienced the highs and lows of working alone. Here are my top tips for dealing with working from home isolation
Get to know the signs, and your limits.
As I mentioned before, loneliness can really creep up on you, which means you don’t always know it’s the culprit. You might just think that you’re having an off-day. Pay real attention to your mood swings and how often you get to see or talk to someone. I recommend journaling to all my clients; just a free flow of writing in the mornings helps to get your thoughts out and on to paper. Time spent journaling can help to identify thoughts and emotions that are running around your mind that you didn’t even know you had. And when you start to feel low, or lonely, ask yourself – how long have I been on my own for? When was the last time I spoke to someone? So that you get an idea of your own needs for the future. Then take some action. Even if it’s a trip to your regular coffee shop.
Make time for you as well as your work.
Don’t ditch the gym or stop doing all the social things that you used to just because you’re launching a business or you have a big contract. I know it can feel tempting when you have a lot to do, but keeping up with your own social life and staying fit and healthy will help you to be more productive and should ensure you still see people.
Book face-to-face interactions.
Don’t rely on just email or messenger to communicate. Pick the phone up or video call clients or suppliers. I believe we are the victims of silent communication – we think we communicate all day long but can often go for hours or even days without actually speaking to anyone. This perpetuates the feelings of isolation but also hides them.
Connect, connect, connect!
There are lots of ways you can do this including:
Business networking – make connections and potentially collaborate and generate more work. There are tonnes of local business networking organisations around the UK. Just take a look online or speak to your local chamber of commerce or FSB representative.
Co-working spaces – meet up with other local business owners just like you and work together in one place. You might not want to do it every day but once a week or once a month this could really help to feel less isolated.
Hot-desking at a local business hub – Venture House in Stratford-Upon-Avon is a prime example of this. They provide hot desking for local business owners. You just turn up and work from their place instead of yours, surrounded by other local people and plenty of tea and coffee!
Rent-a-desk – similar to hot-desking, you can often rent a desk on a more structured basis. The desk is yours for however many days a month you would like it. Alternatively, if you know someone with a larger business and a spare desk, why not ask them if you could nip in occasionally and work from theirs? I’ve done this a few times and would very much recommend it – especially if they do Friday lunch at the local pub!
Buddy-up – Once you’ve got to know local business owners, perhaps by going networking, you may want to arrange something with a few that you particularly click with. Perhaps working together in a local coffee shop once a month, or something more social like Friday night drinks after work, or a Christmas lunch out together. After all, having colleagues to chat to in the office isn’t all we miss out on as self-employed people.
The key is to be proactive and make connection with others a priority. This is one way you can really look after your own wellbeing and help to ensure the sustainability of your enterprise for the long term.
- Guest Blog by Helen Leathers
Helen Leathers is a women’s confidence and transformational coach. She helps women through times of transition and with confidence issues like Imposter Syndrome. For more information or to arrange a conversation go to www.helenleathers.com