If your work isn't bringing you into direct contact with clients or colleagues on a regular basis, you may be more affected than you know. How can you tell if a lack of human interaction is putting a crimp in your style? Some typical indications of being overly isolated are irritability, loss of energy and sadness unrelated to an identifiable cause. But just as the cells of our body vary, so do we all differ in the quantity and type of social contact we require.
Even people who are with customers or clients all day discover that loneliness can be about more than just being alone. They may miss contact with colleagues-people who understand the challenges of the work they're doing, who are sources of intellectual stimulation and who you can turn to for advice in handling problems.
When Paulene Smith left her job and started a homebased bookkeeping business, she discovered some unforeseen disappointments that came with not having co-workers around. "I certainly didn't want to think I'd made the wrong decision, but finally I had to admit to myself I really did miss the old gang at the office," she says. "I had to acknowledge that working on my own involved some special problems I hadn't expected."
Even if you have to force yourself to make outside contacts, the good news is that if you find the right group or people to relate to, the positive effect you experience can be both emotionally and physically rewarding and thus becomes self-motivating once you get involved. And remember, it's valuable to have both personal contacts with others who share your interests and collegial business contacts you can interact with to grow your business.
Social groups, for example, might include parents of children your own children's age, a group organized around one of your hobbies such as quilting or photography, a church group, and community service organizations. Business groups might include a local business association, a trade or professional group of your peers or potential clients, or a business referral organization, such as Business Network International , which has chapters all over the world. In either case, volunteering to help with events, computer work or other tasks makes participation easier, so you get and stay involved.
If you really don't like leaving your house or find it difficult to get away from your home office, you can participate in many of these same kinds of activities through the web. Many people feel they find as meaningful-and some more meaningful-relationships and contacts online. Some might even lead to face-to-face contact. Again, when choosing which groups to participate in, focus on those that share your personal or business interests, such as those you might find among the many Yahoo! Groups .
One of the best ways to make business contacts is to join an online group related to your field. You can find such affiliations through sites that compile lists of groups like Jump City , Tile.net , and the Listserv software site. Social networking sites, such as Ecademy , LinkedIn , Meetup.com and Ryze , also offer ways to make business contacts with people you may not otherwise meet.
A great way to develop personal relationships online is to sign up for a three-to-six-month web-based course in a subject of interest. Because we live in a remote area, Sarah, who loves nature, regularly takes semester-long courses through ecopsycho.com where she's made nature-loving friends and established relationships with colleagues from all over the world.
Most people find participation in two to three groups ample for avoiding isolation without detracting from the business of doing business.
Paul and Sarah Edwards are homebased business experts and consult and coach on the subjects of the 16 books they've written. Their latest book is The Best Home Businesses for People 50+. Free portions of their books are available at www.workingfromhome.com .