This question isn’t as serious as some of the other ones you get but I hope you’ll answer it anyway. I work from home and make a good living at it. I do contract technical writing and spend almost zero time in the offices of the companies I work for.
Many of my friends with office jobs think I have it made, but in the past few months I have started to feel very lonely and isolated.
What can I do to liven up my day and not go bonkers working at home? I’ve started having entire conversations with my cats and that cannot be a sign of good mental health! 🙂
Bree in Portland
I’m pretty sure you knew I’d answer this question because clearly I don’t have a big fancy office in which I blog away the day.
As you have discovered, working from home is both incredibly liberating and deeply lonely. The solitude can be a welcome change from petty office politics, but sometimes I miss the days of watching executives stab each other in the back and gossiping about those fools with co-workers.
Perfecting the art of avoiding blame whilst stoking the fires of competition and inadequacy in others is an art form and one which can fill the time between meaningless projects and doing work you don’t care about.
Whelp, I’ve done it again. I’ve co-opted your story and made it about mine…sorry about that. We spoke on the phone last week and you told me stirring up trouble at work wasn’t your thing, but you did enjoy the day-to-day camaraderie of working with others.
You also told me you began doing contract work almost a year ago because you needed the flexible schedule to take care of your aging parents. I’d like to take a moment here to say: good for you! It’s not everyone who will agree to help feed and bathe their parents in their dotage.
(Parents: are you hearing me?)
I’m going to give you some very good advice and then I am going to try to follow it myself. I’ve been writing from home for just about 6 months and the cabin fever is really starting to set in, so I’ve come up with some ideas that should help.
1. You live in Portland and there are some really great options for renting flexible workspace in our city. Rather than list them all here, I’ll give you a link to an article setting out the various places and their benefits and drawbacks. Co-working Spaces in Portland.
2. If you do go that route, it will probably increase your efficiency and productivity levels, which leads me to my second piece of advice: get real with your time management.
While I think going to an office for a set period of time each day will make me more focused and keep me away from the (wine) refrigerator, that is not an option for me at this time. Instead, I have instituted a fairly rigorous schedule for myself each day.
With the exception of getting my son off to school and mainlining at least two cups of coffee, writing comes first each and every day. First I write, then I work out, then I have a quick lunch and the rest of the day is spent communicating with letter writers, drafting my two book outlines and shamelessly begging radio stations to have me on the air.
Now this week is different: this week I have lunch plans every day. Some are business meetings, and others are with friends. Yes, believe it or not, there are a few people out there who enjoy my company, notwithstanding my family’s opinion that I am deeply flawed and unlikable.
3. This leads me into my third point: try to carve out some time for yourself that is neither work nor caregiving. Whether it is exercise, volunteer work, social activities or having a hot affair with your gardener, put something on your schedule that is just for you.
If you have outings and activities that get you outside the home and interacting with others, the time spent writing in your office will not feel so oppressively lonely.
4. Stop talking to your cats.
Conversations with felines are decidedly one-sided, not just because they can’t talk but also because cats hate us and don’t care about whatever it is we want to discuss. I don’t think that your efforts to entertain yourself chatting with your kitties are going to do anything for you but increase your loneliness.
Instead, get a dog or two. They might not understand what you are babbling about, but they love you enough to pretend that they do. I suggest a psychotic Chihuahua who has recently been attacked by a coyote and thus lost most of his house training skills overnight. He may shit in your shoes, but he’ll listen to your problems!
(please email me for details)
That’s about all I’ve got! Thanks for your letter and let me know if things improve for you.