By Yvonne Milosevic
No lie, working from home is the bomb—most of the time. You can totally stay in your pjs all day if that’s your jam. There’s no rush-hour commute to spike your blood pressure. You’re way more productive—13% more, according to this Stanford professor—than your office-bound peers. As long as you meet your deadlines and put in your time, as a WFHer you have total freedom to work when you want (night owls rejoice!), how you want, and where you want.
Yup, working from home is amazing…until you realize you haven’t showered in three days or seen another human besides the FedEx guy. And there you have the one major downer of working from home: the potential for loneliness. Without those daily convos with colleagues around the office watercooler, you’ll need to get creative to combat the feelings of isolation commonly reported by those who WFH. Try these solutions on for size.
Work in public sometimes.
All of those people on laptops at the corner coffee shop are definitely on to something. The free Wi-Fi, pleasant banter with the barista (who cares if she misspells your name?), and white noise atmosphere can replicate the energy of an office.
As long as you’re making purchases once in a while, most coffeehouses are happy to have you. In fact, Starbucks is totally pushing its identity as a “third place” to go after home or work. Working in public at least some of the time can help you stay productive and stave off loneliness for the price of a tall latte.
Take it next level with a shared work space.
A big reason why people pay to work in a communal setting such as WeWork and NextSpace, as opposed to working from home for free, is the human interaction factor, says a trio of Harvard researchers in their article on why people thrive in coworking spaces.
Here, you can interact with fellow “co-workers” as much, or as little, as you like. The researchers say those who use shared work spaces report feeling a strong sense of community identity. Apparently, just knowing there is “the potential for interactions when they desire or need them” is enough to keep loneliness at bay.
“Too much autonomy can actually cripple productivity because people lack routines,” they add. “Coworkers reported that having a community to work in helps them create structures and discipline that motivates them.”
Join a Slack community.
For many people, maintaining professional relationships in an online community is key to feeling connected with your industry despite working remotely. Slack, the messaging app for teams, has something called Slack communities where people can congregate around a topic or even a specific location.
There are communities for marketing, entrepreneurs, designers, developers, HR, social media, and fun stuff, too. Ometrics gives the lowdown on why everyone should join a Slack community, as well as an awesome list of popular Slack groups to get you started.
Be sure to check out Work From, a community for remote and work-from-home professionals. This group provides conversations and insights about 21st century work/life. Plus, they promise to send you “A ‘hello and good morning’ from someone other than your cat.” No offense, Felix, but Slack has you beat in the “keeps me feeling tethered to humanity” department.
Move your body.
Physical activity is a proven mood lifter. Whether you head to the gym for a workout— during the workday, without all those 9-5ers vying for the elliptical—or just go for a walk around the block. If you think you have too much work to do and can’t possibly fit another thing in, remember all of the mental benefits of exercise.
Studies show that activity not only improves your physical health, but also your mental health and productivity. Basically, you should consider exercise part of your job.
Also, consider adopting a loveable mutt who you can call your co-worker. After all, dogs are famous mood boosters. Companionship and forced walks—bam! Loneliness banished and #fitnessgoals achieved.
Get radical and go nomad.
One of the best things about working from home is the freedom it offers. But the “from home” part isn’t mandatory. In fact, mixing it up with a change of scenery can do wonders for your productivity and creative mind. If you have the freedom to work from anywhere in the world, why limit yourself to your living room?
The key element is ensuring that you make enough money to cover your cost of living, whether you choose a different city in your country or decide to step it up several notches and go full-nomad abroad. You’ll see incredible sites, eat amazing food, and make new and interesting friends wherever you go. Check out Nomad Stack, which has a cool blog and offers all of the digital nomad resources you need to embark on your own adventure.
The benefits of telecommuting far outweigh the drawbacks for most people, and loneliness doesn’t have to be an unavoidable trade-off when you work from home. Try any combination of these tips to avoid feeling isolation as a WFHer, and you’ll be golden.