I’m a social person. Yes, I’m the one who will stand in line behind you at the grocery store and attempt to make small talk about the weather or some other irrelevant topic. I don’t do it to be annoying, I promise you. It’s just that I really enjoy speaking with others and learning about their opinions and life experiences. That’s why I sometimes struggle as a solopreneur who spends a large portion of the day alone.
Of course, if you’re providing a service that requires a quiet environment—like writing a client’s web copy or doing research for a health-based article—being alone is good. You’re easily able to shut the rest of the world out and focus on the task at hand. With the appearance of COVID-19, even more people are being forced to transition from working in a people-filled office setting to setting up shop in a home office that is so quiet you can hear every creak in the house.
The good news about working from home is that you are able to earn an income without leaving your four walls. The bad news is that sometimes all of the time alone can get to you. What can you do to not feel so isolated, making your days feel extra long?
Take Mini Social Breaks Throughout Your Workday
When you work in a traditional setting, you’re around other people during the day. Even if you have your own office, all you have to do is step outside your doors and there is a plethora of people to talk with face to face. You don’t necessarily have this luxury at home.
That’s why I will take mini breaks to create more in-person interaction. If my husband is also working from home, I will wander upstairs into his office for a couple minutes, just to see how his day is going or to give him a quick hug.
Do you have a partner who is also working at home? If so, meet at the coffee pot for a bit of chatter a couple times a day. If you have kids, take 10-15 minutes in the morning and afternoon to play a quick game or have a snack together.
If you live alone, reach out to people online. When my husband isn’t home or is busy, I’ll get on a video call with mom who lives in the UK. She may not be sitting directly across from me, but the fact that I can see her face is enough to help relieve the loneliness so I can continue with my workday.
Create a list of people you can connect with online when you need a work break. This helps strengthen your personal relationships, while filling your social needs at the same time.
Get Out at Least Once a Week (Even If Just for a Walk)
One of the things I’ve found most helpful to curbing my feelings of isolation, especially during COVID-19, is to get out regularly. Sometimes my trip to the grocery store is enough interaction to forget that I spend a lot of time on my own. The change of environment satisfies my senses, enabling me to return home and better focus on my work.
Make it a point to walk away from your home office at least once a week. Get out and experience something new. Open your eyes and see the world around you. This can keep you grounded as well.
If I can get outside for a walk, it is even better. The fresh air and sunshine re-energize my body. I also get the opportunity to wave and say hello to other walkers, creating a sort of kinship. I liken it to the way Harley riders always acknowledge other Harley riders on the road. You may be riding solo, but you’re still part of one big family.
That’s how I feel about other walkers in my neighborhood. We may not be menacing like the Hell’s Angels but if it’s quiet solidarity you want, come on over. You will fit right in!
Be Mindful with Social Media
I used to hop on Facebook a few times a day to interact with family and friends. Though I appreciate this online platform for allowing me to stay in touch with people who are thousands of miles away, lately I’ve found that it raises my stress levels. A lot of the posts are negative or divisive, leaving me feeling worse than before.
If you have this same love/hate relationship with social media, it may be time to take a break. At a minimum, limiting your time on these sites can help you protect your mental health. Only sign on once or twice day to see what others are doing. You can also limit the length of your sessions with apps designed to kick you off that site once you’ve reached a pre-set amount of time.
Another alternative is to only use platforms that meet your social needs without creating a negative emotional response. For instance, I’ve found that I still enjoy scrolling through my news feed on LinkedIn. Most of the posts are positive and encouraging, making this a more pleasurable experience.
Don’t Work in Total Silence
Many productivity experts tout a quiet background as being prime for productivity. While this may be the case for some people, I find the silence deafening. Instead of getting more done, I have a hard time concentrating when there is no noise. And it reminds me how alone I am.
That’s why, if you walk into my office during the workday, my TV will likely be on. I’m not paying attention to it and the volume is almost non-existent, but I find that I do better with some type of background noise. I’ve tried using music but, for some reason, I’m way more distracted by it. I find myself singing along to the songs and dancing in my chair versus focusing on my work.
I’m not saying that television is okay and music is not. You have to find what works for you. That said, whatever source you use, it should be one that doesn’t pull your attention and keep you from your work.
Just because you work alone doesn’t mean that you need to feel alone. You can still meet your social needs without it impacting your final product. In fact, if you do it right, it could help you create even higher quality work because you’ll be happier in the process.