Have You placed yourself under "house arrest"? Loneliness is the number-one complaint I hear from homebased business owners. I've been working from home for more than 30 delightful, richly social years, and I'm convinced that most people who experience working solo as a curse have brought it on themselves.
Because most homebased business owners have left salaried jobs to go out on their own, they often experience withdrawal from the buzz of water-cooler gossip, office politics, professional ladder climbing and--let's be honest--office flirtations. Suddenly, everything's quiet. A "social event" in a typical home office is when you waylay your mail carrier or check your e-mail.
Working from home is the traditional American way of life. About a hundred years ago, 90 percent of us were self-employed, as doctors used their living rooms to treat patients and shopkeepers often lived behind their stores. Business, family and social activities were played out together in overlapping spaces.
Today, with all the communication tools every home office uses, we are slipping into a "virtual" life that may bring us business contacts across the globe but doesn't satisfy our need to mix it up. Having a computer, a modem, a telephone and a television, plus services that deliver everything from software to champagne, allows us to cocoon. And that's why we slip-slide into shells of apparent self-sufficiency. Then we complain about being lonely outposts of entrepreneurship. We may be "wired," but we don't feel connected. We begin to miss the corporate office maze of cubicles. Sure, they were "veal fattening pens," but at least we went to lunch every day with colleagues and friends.
So why trade the corporate beehive for a home office hamster cage? Get out there and boogie, dear pioneers. You're reinventing the original spirit of enterprise that was the earliest theme of American life--living resourcefully and independently but in the spirit of community.
Some advice? Make it a central part of your professional freedom to celebrate that long-awaited phone call or new client by going out to lunch. And why not have lunch with your old company gang? You'll be keeping old friendships alive and may find new contacts to help your career thrive. Or invite them over for a barbecue. Another way to stay connected is to give back to your community. Here are three examples:
- A consultant can devote his or her trouble-shooting skills to problem-solving at a local school, civic group or charitable organization.
- A tax preparer can offer free services to low-income people.
- A landscape designer can organize a team to clean up a favorite park.
Also consider teaming up with another homebased business, one that complements your service or product, turning community service into a team sport. The word-of-mouth appreciation that hums through your community will be music to your ears.
Remember, you're working from home, not just at home. Stay in touch.
American Dietetic Association, (800) 366-1655
David Lubman & Associates, (714) 373-3050, firstname.lastname@example.org