Only The Lonely
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Q: When I left my job to work from home, I couldn't wait to work in peace and quiet. I was in one of those awful cubicles where you couldn't get any privacy. Now I'd give anything to be interrupted and have a conversation with someone! I've only been working from home for three months, but I'm already thinking of getting a job. Is it too soon to be giving up? Do you know anyone who works from home who is really happy doing it? I had no idea it would be this isolating.
A: Yes, I know one very happy home-office professional-ME! I came from 15 years in a corporate HR management job, surrounded by people all the time, so I know what you're going through. On most days, it's just me, my computer, and my e-mail friends.
Rest assured-what you're feeling is completely normal. The grass often looks greener on the other side. Many people who leap into homebased self-employment relish the thought of no more committee meetings, constant interruptions or wasted time on chit-chat with a co-worker they don't even like. Then they figure out that gaining peace and freedom can be a lonely endeavor.
Before you glamorize your previous employment too much, remember that you're in a transition period and three months is not a long time to get adjusted. Is the lack of social connection your primary complaint? Do you like the work? Do you prefer to be self-employed? Are you making any money? Is it hard to make sales calls from home with no one cheerleading or directing you? Do you have a comfortable home office conducive to productive work?
Complaints about lack of social contact can often be a disguise for other grievances. When we're unsettled, fearful or bored, we crave the distraction of friends and co-workers.
If your primary problem truly is isolation, there's plenty you can do. Immerse yourself in cyberspace, and start making online connections with others who work from home or are in your industry. (Entrepreneur.com is a good place to start!) Network with business groups in your community with a neighborhood organization. Volunteer for a few hours in your community. Buddy up with another homebased professional for daily phone and e-mail contact and weekly breakfast or lunch meetings. If you miss your co-workers, lunch with them. Just be careful you aren't sucked back into your former job-unless that's what you really want! Arrange for plenty of social plans outside of your working hours.
Treat yourself to the benefits of isolation! Turn on the stereo and sing while you're working-no one is looking or listening! Hang out in grunge clothes. Take a short nap in the middle of the afternoon. Take a daily half-hour walk. You may soon come to appreciate your privacy. Isolation can become your friend rather than your enemy.
Azriela Jaffe is the founder of Anchored Dreams and author of several books, including Honey, I Want to Start my Own Business: A Planning Guide for Couples and Starting from No: Ten Strategies to Overcome Your Fear of Rejection and Succeed in Business.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.