How can I deal with the isolation of working at home?

Q & A by C.J. HaydenWorking from home has so many benefits that many entrepreneurs don’t consider the drawbacks. For the first month or two, you may really enjoy the improved concentration and productivity most people find when they work alone. But after a while, you may find yourself missing the interaction you used to get at work.

It can be lonely out there. Working by yourself all day, you lose out on casual conversations in the hallway, kicking around ideas for a project, or discussing the day’s events.

This isolation factor often affects women more than men, because of the high value most women place on relationships. It’s no trivial issue — according to the research of gender consultant Bonita Banducci, isolation is women’s greatest fear. Many women give up their businesses because they can’t stand to be alone any more.

Here are some solutions to try if you start feeling isolated:

1. Partnership

The best solution is often not to do all your work alone. The traditional model of partnership is finding a person who shares your vision and going into business together, but partnership can take many different forms.

Is there someone you could collaborate with on certain projects? Could you find a group of people already doing work that interests you, and team up with them? One growing trend is the consortium — you identify a specific market, and collect a group of non-competitive businesses who cooperate to fully serve that market.

Another way to partner is by sharing office or studio space, full-time or part-time. Or perhaps you could work at a colleague’s home office one day a week, and he or she could work at yours another day. With a laptop and a cell phone you can potentially work anywhere.

To find a partnering scenario that would work for you, start by identifying some people you might enjoy connecting with, and call a brainstorming meeting. You may be amazed at the positive results.

2. Support

If you enjoy going to networking meetings, find a group that meets regularly so you can get to know the other members. Be sure to spend some time mingling with peers and colleagues, not just with prospective clients. For a more structured support group, look for an ongoing mastermind group, success team, or action group of other business owners or professionals that meets in your local area.

You can also get one-on-one support. Many professionals work with a life coach, success coach, or business coach who they meet with regularly to commiserate, celebrate, brainstorm, strategize, and maintain perspective.

Another option is finding a mentor, someone who has “been there” to advise and console you. Find your own mentor by asking someone you admire to fill this role, or locate a volunteer mentor through a community mentorship program.

3. Camaraderie

Get out of your office more often. If you need a good business excuse, set up lunch or coffee dates with prospective customers, referral sources, or contacts that might lead to your next project. Examine the nature of your business and see if some of it could happen elsewhere. Is there work you could do at a client’s place of business, at the park, or in a cafe?

Be sure to counteract isolation in your time off, too. You may have enjoyed solitary hobbies when you worked away from home, but now you might want to make plans with friends instead.

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