Working in isolation can have an affect on your wellbeing, both physical and mental.
I have just returned to consulting and contract work and I have a beautiful home office (The Hoffice) to work in. I have contemplated a move to an actual office and in the new year, I probably will find something quirky and interesting to call home for the business. In the meantime, however, my hoffice makes sense.
Choosing how the office works is all part of the fun. I have a view to the street, casting an eye over traffic, people and the occasional emergency services situation. City views are a small bonus, reminding me how close I am to my client base. All the necessary requirements are a couple of hundred metres away – a supermarket, good coffee, my post office box and a pub. There are food outlets for when I need to treat myself to lunch or perhaps meet a client somewhere other than my office or theirs.
Did I mention the coffee? My favourite café is a ten-minute walk away. This is my coffice – the place to go and drink coffee, work away and enjoy a different outlook. The staff are lovely, and the coffee is good.
The biggest challenge, and I am sure other freelancers, contractors and consultants share this, is social isolation. Having space to work in, working without shoes and in a pair of shorts, choosing my hours and output are all luxuries of working from the hoffice. They have asked me to wear shoes (and) pants at the coffice.
But being part of a team is fundamentally important to my personality type. Too much isolation and I start talking to the office plants. Yes, singing is allowed and doesn’t annoy anyone, the music choices are mine alone to make (check out the work playlist here on Spotify https://open.spotify.com/user/1239096496/playlist/2VRKxeny9hPUQp7bMV56xi?si=eGxwaCYcRHyS8tCQSpewvg
The thought of a shared or communal working space fills me with some dread – and I would struggle to schlep to town on the train with a 21” mac under my arm and the relevant tools to use it every day. Being a creature of habit is hard … having everything where it is meant to be is another of my quirks.
What tools can you bring into the workday to stop social isolation? My top tips are below:
· Join a freelancer group on Facebook or online. You can share tips and tricks for coping with the isolation and maybe even make a new friend or two.
· Celebrate milestones – while everyone else is out having an office party or taking an afternoon away for some team building, you can too. Have someone join you for a milestone or to celebrate a new client win and if possible, invite a few people to gather where you can for a celebration. Friends and family are good for this – at home, at family’s or friend’s homes, or a local café. These wins are important to you and need to be celebrated.
· Go to networking events. They can be time consuming, but the benefits far outweigh the time out of the hoffice. Meeting like-minded people, setting up a collaboration, finding new opportunities and talking face to face are all great outcomes.
· Always take an opportunity to meet potential clients, suppliers or others outside of your hoffice. Meet at the coffice, or somewhere else.
· Ask a friend, client or colleague can you work in their office. Many of us know another small business owner or someone who works in a cool collaborative environment. Clients are always generally happy to have you in their space. Provided you can hot spot your own Wi-Fi or log in to a public system, there is no risk of tapping into anything highly secure or confidential.
· Be kind to yourself. Don’t roll out of bed and head to your desk in your pyjamas. Start your day as you would going to work – shower and get ready, maybe take yourself to the gym or for a walk before you get ready. I find this gives me really good separation in my work/home life, it’s good for my health and I come to the desk prepared and ready to tackle the day.
· Pets can help. Have your dog or cat or ferret with you in your office space in your home. They are great companions and give you someone to talk to – even if they can’t answer back.
· Pick up the phone rather than emailing. While it cannot substitute for face to face, talking to another human can switch up the day and inject some much-needed conversation. Calling a client just to check in makes them feel valued and makes you feel good.
· Get off the social media. Unless it is fundamental to the success of your business, close down Facebook, Instagram and Twitter during the day. You are observing people’s best life on their socials and it can be depressing and distracting. My tip is to turn off notifications on the phone and the laptop. Allow yourself time to check in when you are making a cuppa or grabbing some lunch but during the workday remove the distraction where you can.
· Get out at night. If you are working from a desk in the lounge, a study or the spare bedroom, it is important to get out of the house at the end of the day. Take yourself for a walk, meet friends for a drink or a bite to eat, visit family, walk the dog, go to the library or volunteer doing something.
· Make lunch in the morning. Rather than grabbing whatever you can through the day, make your lunch in the morning. Eating breakfast each day makes your more productive, and putting together a salad, a sandwich or some leftovers from last night’s dinner ready to go when you take a lunch break is fundamental to feeling like your friends do. Eat it away from the desk – on the balcony, outside, in a nearby park.
Social isolation and a lack of human interaction in the day can lead to depression, fatigue, a lack of sleep and inability to concentrate and poor health outcomes.
The better you can take care of yourself, the better the business outcomes for you and the more productive and successful you become.
The Hoffice or the Coffice – choose your adventure and work out what brings you the best result.