It can be tough to make new friends when you move somewhere new. It can be particularly challenging if you’re self-employed and you’re not going into the office every day. When you work from home, you need to be creative to overcome the social isolation that can creep in when you’re not paying attention.
According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, self-employed workers make up 10.1 % of the U.S. workforce. That’s 15 million people taking up the tables at Starbucks every day. This is why residential developers now offer communal office spaces in apartment buildings as an added amenity to their residents. It creates an office community, but without a commute. It’s an attractive incentive to renters and buyers.
Shared offices have also become a way to avoid the loneliness some may feel when working from home. Wellie Chao, Co-Founder of MicroOffice, explains that solo entrepreneurs and professionals enjoy meeting with like-minded people in the shared office space. Chao finds that it’s beneficial to his customers on both a social and professional level, “It is isolating working from home. Co-working promotes social interaction. One key advantage from co-working is the social bonding and the business that happens with other people in the office.”
What if you don’t have access to shared working spaces or you really just prefer to work from home? I decided to ask some writers how they deal with working alone all day. Writing has been called the loneliest profession, but not for these writers. They’ve found ways to feel happy, fulfilled and less isolated by trying these strategies:
Work in a public place like a café or the library
You feel like you’re more a part of what’s going on in the world simply by working near other people. It doesn’t even matter whether you interact directly with others or not. Ramona Mead, a writer and book blogger in Montana, schedules days to work at the public library. She says, “It gets me out, but is still a quiet place to work.”
Robyn Field, a children’s book author, recommends switching up your favorite places to work whether it’s the library, a coffee shop or a bookstore. Field finds that these are good places to chat with strangers, “Many times you’ll have pleasant conversations with people at those places.” You never know where you’ll meet a new friend in town, so it’s a great idea to strike up a conversation wherever you can.
Call a friend who makes you smile
Even a quick phone call with a friend can lift your spirits. Field recommends calling a friend while you’re on your way somewhere. A chat for a few minutes can “make all the difference in your day.” Australian writer, Lou Marlowe, agrees. The only problem, Marlowe admits, is that she enjoys these calls so much that “with a few of them, that’s a two hour enterprise. So, it’s a pretty long writing break.”
Get outdoors and enjoy nature
For an immediate boost of happiness, grab your walking shoes and head outside. Ellen Read, an Australian author, breaks up the social isolation of working from home by getting outdoors. She explains what a profound impact it has on her day, “A walk in the garden works magic for me. Writing in a house by yourself all day everyday can be lonely, but there are ways around it.”
Pamela A. Allen, a Chicago-based food blogger, agrees that the key is to get away from your desk and to take it outdoors. Allen explains her go-to strategy to avoid social isolation: “One of the best ways I’ve found for breaking up the solitude of a writer’s life is getting outside. Ideally, I go for a walk with a friend. It’s great to get some fresh air, exercise and social interaction.” Even five minutes can give you the recharge you need.
Join a group exercise class
When you move, you get to re-create your life and pick up good habits along the way. Exercise will make you feel good. It will also help break up the loneliness that sometimes comes with working alone. Allen likes group exercise classes in yoga or meditation. She describes how a class can turn into more than just a work break, “It’s nice to have the camaraderie of a class. If you go at the same time every week you can make new friends.” Marlowe’s yoga class usually goes for coffee afterwards, which is the perfect ending to a meditative morning. Field also extols the benefits of exercise, “You will literally feel happier immediately afterward.”
Connect with people on social media
One benefit of social media is that it doesn’t matter how far away you live from your friends. Even after moving, your bookstagramming, running, or photography friends all still live in your phone. Technology can be pretty amazing. Read finds that hopping on social media is a great way to reconnect, but she warns, “I think the main thing is not to have too long a break, just ten minutes at the most.” Yes, it’s easy to go down the rabbit hole, so give yourself a time limit so you can get back to work.
Get out and run an errand every day
Even a quick stop at the local coffee shop can help you feel more connected to others. Allen finds that, “On busier days just getting outside and doing errands midday gets me out of my house and clears my head.” Field agrees that one outing a day can help no matter what you’re doing, “Nothing fancy, maybe go to the gym, to Target (who doesn’t love to go to Target?), to the grocery, to church, to extracurricular activities, or to lunch with a friend.”
Treat yourself throughout the day
Treat yourself well with a hot cup of tea, a reading break by the fire, a minute outside on your balcony, a taste of chocolate or whatever lifts your spirit. Embrace the concept of hygge and savor the small pleasures. Make your home your sanctuary. Work peacefully during the day. Then, when you finish your work, invite family or friends to join you. Field recommends taking the time to “wind down with someone you enjoy or with an activity you enjoy that has nothing to do with work.” Appreciate the benefits of working from home. Then, kick back and relax at the end of the day.
Great blog post, Ali. Really interesting and informative. I’m pleased to have been a small part of it. Ellen x
Thank you so much, Ellen, for all of your great tips!
As an Assistant Professor and freelance business consultant, I truly believe that my online students can use this valuable information as well. Thanks for taking the time to share these practical tips. It is greatly appreciated.
Thank you for your kind words, Faith. I hope it’s helpful information for your online students.