Overcoming the Isolation of Working at Home
by Stephanie Lee
Overcoming the Isolation of Working at Home

Guest columnist Stephanie Lee of Host Agency Reviews writes a monthly column on issues faced by travel agents who work from home and other entrepreneurs in travel.

Everyone is worried about the flu this year. That is, everyone but me. I mean, if the flu is passed between people, and if I never see anyone, how could I possibly catch it?

When friends describe their offices being hit by the flu, I counter that they should work from home. It’s like a self-imposed quarantine!

Yes, it seems my honeymoon period with working from home has come to an end. I miss being around people.

Sure, I have my dog Rigel to keep me company. But honestly, the increasing length of our conversations would worry you.

Defining moment
For all the great things about working from home, the one downside I’ve found – and it’s a big one – is the isolation.

When I first tried to write about this, I struggled. After a while, I figured it out. I was interchanging the words lonely and isolated. But they’re not interchangeable – similar meanings, but still very, very different.

lone•ly adj. – 1. Sad because one has no friends or company 2. Without companions; solitary.
i•so•lat•ed adj. – 1. Far away from other places, buildings, or people; remote 2. Having minimal contact or little in common with others. (Source: Google Dictionary)

Well how about that, I’m feeling isolated! I don’t need more friends, acquaintances or company. I need more contact with people.

Coffee only goes so far
It’s not that I don’t go out, I do: I cross country ski with a group of women at least once a week. I visit neighborhood coffee shops so much that they know my drink and ask me where I’ve been when I’ve been away for a while. I chat it up with other regulars at the dog park. I hang out with friends after work.

These communities have their place in my life – they offer caffeine, fitness, entertainment, and more. But still, something is missing.

With work such an important part of my life, I find that I miss interacting with people who love travel, who love building businesses and who love online marketing. I miss throwing ideas around with others who are passionate about writing, content strategy, and the potential of the web.

You know that tangible pulse in a room filled with people with a passion? That’s what I’m missing.

So how to fix this? When you’re a one-person shop and you work from home, reconnecting with the outside world requires effort.

First thing I did was look at the root of the problem. It isn’t just that I need to be around people. I need to be around people I can bounce ideas off of and learn from. I need a community where I can feed others’ energy and vice versa.

 Last year, I researched joining a business incubator of sorts in downtown Minneapolis. But, still content at home, I vetoed it. With the start of the new year, I decided it was time to revisit the idea.

So a few weeks ago I took the tour. Within minutes, I felt my isolation disappearing, replaced with excitement about the possibilities.

I discovered one of my hosts identified as a writer, the other, a developer of WordPress, which is the platform my site is built on. I was surrounded by people with shared passions!

I didn’t have to think twice before signing the dotted line. For a small investment, I now have a beautiful workspace that is also a place where I can have the interactions I need to be happy. (I opted for five days a month, at $50 per month.)

A delicate balance
Funny isn’t it?! I left an office setting to work from home, because my work-life balance was off. Now, the balance needs tweaking, so I’m headed back to an office.

So tell me, how do you break the isolation that goes with working from home?

Former host agency director Stephanie Lee operates Host Agency Reviews, which features agent reviews of host agencies and tips for starting and growing a travel agency. Connect with Steph on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

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Paul    1/21/2013 3:46:10 PM
Ironic isn't it? Miss solitude, so work from home. Miss people, so ditch the solitude and get office space.  Personally, I love working from my home office - BUT I have two things working for me: 1. I have only been home-based for about 5 months, and 2. I travel 10-15 days per month, so (like Clooney in Up In The Air), "I'm surrounded by people". Hopefully the incubator space will help cure the isolation blues for you. Smile @PaulOMeara

Stephanie    1/22/2013 9:05:04 PM
Ironic to say the least Paul! I should clarify, I still love working from home (Rigel would be devastated if I wasn't here at least 50% of the time!), I just needed a better balance that involved non-furry companions for brainstorming.  Shhhh... don't tell Rigel.  ;)   We're starting with 40 hours a month out in the big world; we'll see if that's my cure or if I need more!

Brian    1/22/2013 10:35:10 PM
Great article Stephanie!  I have to agree with you both.  I live in a destination resort so I get to "play" where my clients are, I constantly bounce ideas off my colleagues (by email, phone, Facebook and LinkedIn groups), and we are fortunate to work in an industry that lends itself to travelling. I have to reiterate Facebook groups and LinkedIn groups, for professionals they're an unbelievable resource for networking.  Not only do they provide a sounding board, but also expert advice that's almost impossible to get working from home.  Relationships formed in these groups move off-line seamlessly, and can become indespensible professional contacts.  

Nyla    1/23/2013 12:43:34 AM
I agree with so much you wrote about the pros and cons of working from home. Mostly, I love it (especially on these bitter cold days), but I have learned I need interaction with other adults, too. I took a part time job (not travel related), 3 to 9 hrs a week, that gives me the interaction AND the all important exercise i don't get sitting at a desk. I can't imagine going back to work in an office full time, although, I miss that exchange of ideas, too. I try to get together after work hours with other travel agents at least once a month. thanks, Steph, good article.

Stephanie    1/23/2013 8:19:57 PM
Thanks Brian and Nyla for sharing what you do to break the isolation.  It's always great to hear what others are doing, your experiences very likely may come in handy for me one day!  :) 

Tip of the Day
Our clients may research online but they want someone to call in case something goes wrong. It's like a safety net. They are a very faithful client base to their travel agents.
Geraldine Coutinho-Meyers, Hyatt Regency Aruba Associate Director of Sales and Events
Daily Top List

Places To Visit On The Ecuador Coast

1. Santa Elena and Salinas

2. Guayaquil

3. Playas and Puerto el Morro

4. Montanita

5. Machalilla national park and Isla de la Plata

Source: The Guardian

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