Overcoming the Isolation of Working at Home

by Stephanie Lee

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.

Solutions
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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