How to Overcome Loneliness When You Work at Home

Scott Davis from Finding Your MarblesI am relatively new to the whole working-from-home scene so I’m still learning the ropes, but one of the things that has really caught me off guard was how lonely it can be when you work from home. It’s getting better now, but for the first few months I really felt out of touch and separated from my friends and family. If you are like me, you absolutely love the freedom that comes with working from home, and you wouldn’t give it up for the world. However, being lonely is no fun, either. Since going back to the cubicle maze is not an option, here are 10 things that you can do to overcome your loneliness when you work from home.

1. Instant Messaging

Get MSN or AIM, or whatever instant messenger most of your friends are using. I’m a shameless MSN addict. Instant messaging is one of the best ways to keep in touch when you can’t leave your desk. You don’t get bogged down on long phone conversations, and if you want to stay connected but you can’t be interrupted, you can set your status to busy or away.

2. Meet Contacts in Person

When I worked in cubicle-world, I almost never met up with my contacts in person, especially if they worked for the same company. Now that I work from home, however, I have been making a point of meeting with my contacts in person, either for a coffee or at their office. Meeting your contacts in person has two benefits: 1) it gets you out of the house, and 2) you get to spend time talking to someone face to face.

3. Work Outside Your House

You’ve all seen them; the contented-looking people at Starbucks happily typing away on their MacBooks and drinking their lattes. Working out of the house is great, if you can do it. Plus, it has the added benefit of being a pretty good cure for loneliness.

4. Schedule Coffee Breaks for Yourself

When I worked at a office, I always took my coffee breaks. They were a great way to relax, plus I got to hang out with my friends and chat for a few minutes. You can do the same thing at home, even if you can’t leave the house. Schedule a couple of 15 minute breaks in your day, and force yourself to take them. On your breaks, call a friend, or send some personal emails, or keep in touch some other way. It only takes 1/2 hour out of your day and it will go a long way towards making you less lonely.

5. Yabba Dabba Doo!

Being a work-at-home parent is no insurance against being a workaholic parent. If you wouldn’t work 3 hours past quitting time for a company, then don’t start doing it when you work for yourself. Schedule a quitting time for each day, and stick to it. There is a huge temptation to work “after hours” when you work for yourself, but remember that it is important to maintain a healthy balance. When your work day is over, you should be leaving your home office like you’re Fred Flintstone.

6. Have Lunches Out

At least once a week, try to have a non-work lunch outside your house, preferably on a Friday. This is a great way to get out of the house and connect with your friends. Try not to talk shop. ;)

7. Include Your Family and Friends

If you can, it is great to include your family and friends in your home business. I have a couple of friends who I call regularly for help with business issues. This can be a great way to cure loneliness, plus it can also be great for your business. If you do this, remember to include time for “non-business” fun too, or your friends may start billing you for consulting services.

8. Don’t Do Housework

“Hi my name is Scott and I do housework to procrastinate when I should be writing.” We all do it. Nothing is more satisfying than avoiding a pile of work by spending 2 hours cleaning the bathroom. Well, I have another reason why you should avoid this trap. If you spend time doing housework when you should be working, the work will still need to be done, and you will end up having to use time that you could be spending with your family and friends. Just say no to housework. [Note from Wendy - careful about the other trap too: working too much to avoid housework, like me!! ;) ]

9. Be More Social

When you work from home, your friends (especially work friends) will have a tendency to forget you. This isn’t intentional; it is just because you are not around them all the time so you just slip their mind. This means that you will need to take the initiative more often. If you feel left out by your friends, call them up and invite them out for a coffee.

10. Take “You” Days

Every week or so, take a day or a half-day, and do something for yourself. Go to the Zoo. Spend the day shopping. The idea is to relax and spend some time in the real world with real people for a while. Reward yourself. After all, having the ability to take time for yourself is one of the main reasons that you chose to work from home, isn’t it?

—– Thanks for reading, and a special thanks to Wendy for having me on as a guest blogger.

Scott Davis blogs at FindingYourMarbles.com, a site dedicated to providing good, informative, and friendly advice for people who suffer from mental illness to help them deal with the day-to-day issues in their lives.

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Comments

  1. says

    Hey Scott, what have you done with Wendy??? :-)

    Great tips, this topic impacts a lot of bloggers. Moreover, a lot more bloggers wish to have this problem, i.e. to no longer go to a job and be able to work from home.

    In my experience, you’ve gotta watch out for the “meet contacts in person” one though.

    I have a slightly different perpective here since I work from home with my partner Jennifer and with our two doggies – Sasha and Cujo. So it’s hard to get too lonely. But it’s definitely healthy to get out of the house.

    We’ve found that it’s easy to really impact your day’s productivity with a meeting or two. Which is fine, just don’t expect to get as much done.

    That having been said – I think it’s best to meet folks outside your high productivity hours when your brain is fresh, i.e. for us that means 5:30a to noon.

    Have an awesome day!
    Dan

  2. Charyl Carl says

    Hello, brand new to this process – love the idea. I dream of the day when I can be lonely. I am so interrupted, so often from demands of owning 2 homebased businesses, starting another, 4 kids-two actively in sports and a husband that wants some attention now and then. My twins start full time in 1st grade in the Fall, so I am recreating myself, so I can stay at home and be productive and available. If I am going to work hard, I want it to help my bottom line and not corporate America. Stay connected with people and give of your time and talents to those less fortunate. You will get 100% of benefits from helping others.

  3. Sandra says

    Interesting article Scott. I never honestly thought of becoming lonely from working at home, but my circumstance is different. Three children, one grandchild and husband living here, so not too lonely. In fact sometimes I wish I had more space, but I could see it being an issue if I were living alone or my kids were all moved out. Thanks for sharing.

  4. says

    What problem? :)
    I would like be sentenced to work from home from now on.. to not wake up at the same hour every day, to have more time to chat with friends online and the list continues. I’ve bookmarked this page for the future.. who knows ;)

  5. Wendy says

    Ah, Florin – the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. When I ran my second business out of the home, I got so burnt out that I lost all ability to separate work from home life. When I finally closed my doors, I felt like I had my first day off in four years!!

    There are pros and cons to every side of the coin!

  6. Karen says

    Some rich man once said, don’t waste your time doing housework, you can hire someone to do it, while you are making real money.

  7. says

    Hey Wendy, there you are. :-)

    Ok, I’ve gotta chime in here again. I’ve worked from home much of my life and have to say I’ve really enjoyed it. The freedom is, well, freeing. :-)

    No it didn’t start that way – but after a couple of years of “going to a job” I just had to start my first busines.

    The whole “be somewhere at 8:30 in the morning EVERY MORNING and leave no earlier than 5″ thing is kinda weird to me. And fact is most “jobs” are like that.

    To me that’s “well paid endentured servitude”. But maybe I’m just a free spirit by nature. To each his own of course.

    Have an awesome day!
    Dan

  8. says

    Nice post. I use a lot of the suggestions you’ve made. One specifically, is I take ‘Me’ days. Depending on my needs, I will either do one of two things – just get out of my office and take a day/part of a day to myself doing nothing work related. Or, I might spend a few hours away from my office with pad and pen working through some new piece of my own business development. I keep these times very lightweight – no pressure. Just play through my thoughts on developing something new in my business.

  9. says

    I think “Me” days are the single best thing about working from home. (well, that and not having to do performance reviews ;))

    I was thinking about some of the replies from people who say that they are not lonely working from home. I think my initial problem was that when I worked for a company, my life balance was out of whack. Most of the people I hung around with were from work, I went to a gym in the same building as my office, I had a regular lunch crowd, etc.

    When I started working from home, I went through withdrawal from all that. So I think the loneliness that I initially felt when I began working from home was actually me missing the social part of working with a company, or to be more honest, it was me missing my friends because I wasn’t seeing them for 7.5 hours a day any more.

    A lot of the recommendations I made in my article were things that I did when I first started working from home. They worked. I am not lonely working from home now, but my work (I am a writer) is by nature solitary so I do have to be careful that I don’t crawl so deeply into my work that I become detached from people.

  10. Wendy says

    Dan, of COURSE I couldn’t agree with you more – that’s why I work at home too! I do envy you the fact that you get to hang with Jennifer all day. Then again, I’m not sure that my hubby and I could handle that much time together. ;)

    My only point is that there are always two sides to the coin.

    Scott is wise to be proactively connecting with people because without that, it’s really, really easy to fall into a lonely, depressed place when you’re alone too much. I think that for you, it’s much easier to be productive, happy and focused at home because you’ve done it for a while… yes?

  11. says

    Wow, I come back to this thought and keep turning it over and over again in my mind. You’ve really hit the nail on the head.

    Right now I’m not an entrepeneur – I’m a work-at-home telecommuter. During the day it’s just me and a pair of bratty doggies, and overwhelmingly quiet. In the afternoon I’m joined by my cave troll teen boys.

    I’m considering a shift toward a couple of solopreneurial endeavors. And yet… I’m pretty gregarious, and find my current workstyle fairly lonely and isolated – and I do at least have constant teleconferences and occasional business travel now. Working solo on my own initiatives instead, without an established structure to plug into, would be even more isolating, and it’s one of the factors making me hesitate.

    So I have a question for others who work at home – web designers, probloggers, coders, freelance writers, artists, other consultants – is it possible to handle that lifestyle if you’re more outgoing? Can you adequately compensate with client and peer contacts, as well as increasing social contact in your personal life?

  12. says

    I run into similar problems. I always have my husband and kids to keep me company, but sometimes I need a little more. I actualy found just getting behind the wheel, and driving around to go get coffee or to a local bookstore (you know, taking the “long way”). This usually clears up everything.

    I think it is extremely important to get out, as not doing so could lead to depression, no matter how good your business is doing.

  13. says

    Jeri,

    I’m an extrovert. I do my best thinking (and writing) when I am surrounded by music, people and noise. So yeah, you can do this kind of work on your own, but if you’re anything like me you will find all kinds of ways to connect with people during your day. I really like the working at Starbucks thing. (actually we have Second Cup in Canada, which is way better than Starbucks, but I digress) Even though I don’t end up talking to anyone, I just like to soak up the noise and activity while I write.

  14. Sandra says

    Jeri, that makes sense about needing more socializing if you’re more outgoing. I’ve always been more introverted, so that’s probably another reason I don’t often get lonely. Some people would probably go crazy with my hermit lifestyle.

  15. says

    Looks like guest blogging is really making its way around, I’ve even had 3 lined up for this week.

    What I like best about this article is scheduling work time. Treating your work day as if you have a set start/end time in order to induce proper focus and non lolly-gag around the house.

  16. says

    Hey Scott.

    Just in case you *ever* get lonely again, I have a techy-hubby also a home-based entrepreneur, and 3 homeschool chickadees who love to sing, dance, draw and entertain ANY lonely soul! Pick your age: 6.5, 5.5 or 3.5!

    I ache for my aLONE time!

    hee hee ;-)

    Ponn
    –No really, Great post!

  17. says

    Ponn,

    We have a 2 1/2 year old, who is always willing to help out with my writing. And who is always available for a Raffi sing and dance-along, which is something that I can recommend to anyone looking for a good stress-buster. ;)

  18. says

    @Ponn & Scott,

    It’s funny but I usually live alone (visiting family this week though), but I never really get lonely. Worst case scenario I go over to the school library and do my thing from there.

  19. Wendy says

    Look at all of you – just chatting away with each other…

    I think I’m about to have one of those moments… the ones in which I am amazed and grateful that the community that visits this blog is so damn cool.

    Don’t mind me – I’m just cleaning up the mess from the party last night. You keep right on partying amongst yourselves! ;)

  20. says

    Wendy, I would like to request a post where you express how you really feel about the community surrounding this blog. I’m still on the fence as to whether you like us or not…

  21. says

    Oh, guys… enjoy your little ones while you can. I took one boy to high school registration last night, and the other one is checking out colleges over spring break. They’re both bigger than 6’2″, eat like a plague of locusts, can write html and text without looking at their phone keypad, and thankfully still give fabulous spine-cracking hugs. And it seems like it happened overnight…

    At this age they are far more interested in Halo II, girlfriends, jobs and cars than entertaining parents… and I’m glad. They’re cutting the cord right on schedule.

  22. says

    Wendy,

    That title seems a little sappy, I like it. I miss your face on mybloglog, come visit me!

    This week is extra exciting for me because I have guest bloggers for the first time, three in a row! I’ll have a follow up post on saturday, so check it out than. I’ll e-mail you a special reminder =)

  23. Wendy says

    Jeez.

    It’s a good thing I’m secure in my blogginess, because Scott’s post has just surpassed ALL other posts on this site as the most commented post of all time.

    Way to go, Scott!!! :D

  24. says

    Wendy, is that any way to ask a respectable gentleman out on a first date? “You next?”, I think we should get to know each other better before making any rash decisions that could impact our lives, and the lives of our loved ones.

  25. says

    hi scott,
    Thanks for this.Everyday I haer from other work from hommers on how lonely it can get.Some days it can be hard to get motivbated when you are by yourseld.Great tips!
    Thanks

    Josh

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