You’re sitting at your desk when you feel the rumble of a hunger pang. You look at the clock and realize it’s 3:00 PM and you haven’t moved for four hours, nor have you had contact with another human being since you kissed your spouse good-bye as he left for work this morning.
Working on your own as a home-based employee or busy small business owner can be an isolating experience, and long periods of isolation can lead to burnout, loss of perspective, overwork and depression. Unfortunately, solitude is the nature of the beast when you work for yourself or you are working from home for your employer.
Most entrepreneurs actually even enjoy the solitude to some degree or they’d be working for someone else. Fortunately, there are some strategies you can use to overcome the isolation and give you the best of both worlds.
Quiet alone time when you need to focus and work on projects that require solitude, combined with opportunities to get out and meet with people and be part of the business world beyond your home office.
When you work for another company, your coffee and lunch breaks are usually scheduled by someone else. So at 10:00 you go for coffee, at 1:00 you go for lunch. People who work solo often have to be told the obvious – take a break!
You should give yourself at least three breaks per day (and by breaks I mean away from your office – not eating Cheerios in front of your computer screen). Breaks are important to keep your creativity and productivity high, give your body and your brain an opportunity to regroup, and maybe even incorporate a little rest (aren’t those powernaps one of the bonuses of working from home?).
Chat with a neighbour (social distancing observed, of course) when you go out to check your mail, pick up your take out coffee; make a personal phone call; read the paper; do a crossword puzzle or watch a half-hour sitcom during lunch – these are ways you can nurture yourself and break up the isolation of a typical day.
Establish a network
There are many ways to do this, and doing it is vital. Becoming connected will make you a better business person and a better employee. You’ll gain new ideas and insights, support, camaraderie and resources to augment what you do every day.
There are endless ways to get connected online. Participating in forums, bulletin boards, business chats, and the always popular blogs. If you’re the type of person who enjoys connecting with people online, build this kind of networking into your day, join a Facebook group or if you can’t find one that meets your interests or needs, create a new group.
The ways you can network with others in-person, even during COVID-19, is limited only by your creativity. Here are just a few ideas you can incorporate as solitude-breaking activities into your life:
- Schedule your meetings away from your home office – meet at their office or at another easily accessed location (social distancing protocols in place of course) – how about a socially distance walk?
- Take advantage of virtual and online courses, seminars or workshops that are available. Meeting new people where safe to do so with similar interests is stimulating and you get the benefit of learning new skills!
- Establish a virtual focus group with other home-based employees or business owners. Get together with a group of your peers monthly or even weekly to support and encourage each other, brainstorm through problems, gain fresh perspectives and just have fun! Do it over lunch or breakfast so no one has to cut into their work time.
- Look for a (virtual) mentor. We all need accountability to some degree in order to be more effective, and a wise mentor could be just what you need to break the cycle of isolation. Plus, you get to learn from someone really successful, which can only contribute positively to your business growth.
- Meet clients face to face when possible and safe to do so. When you work on your own, it often seems easier just to deal with things over the phone or by email. In fact, with technology giving us endless ways to connect with each other without face-to-face contact we can conduct our entire client relationships without ever meeting each other. Take time to sit down with your clients one-on-one from time to time. It builds rapport, creates trust and helps you get to know your clients better so that you can be better at meeting their needs. Schedule that virtual chat.
- Establish a success team. This is similar to a focus group, except a success team is made up of people who are not necessarily in the same work situation as you are. Create a virtual group with successful people you admire in all aspects of life. Get together monthly to talk about success. What it means to be successful. Success tips. Attitude chargers. Success stories. This kind of group can be a highly energetic, super-charged event every month that you really look forward to. Personal and professional growth is a by-product of sharing and focusing on success.
When you work from home, whether employee or entrepreneur, your work can become your life. It’s always there, just in the other room. You can check your emails during the commercials of your favourite television show. When you have a half hour, you can choose to tweak that report rather than read to your kids.
Instead of getting to bed at an hour that would provide you with the rest you need, you get stuck on that project you just can’t leave alone and stay up too late. It takes discipline to close the office door and leave it closed after your workday is done.
Establish boundaries for yourself so your family doesn’t get shafted because of your remote-worker status or the ever-present demands of running a small business. In your business there will always be one more thing to do, one more phone call to make, one more project to work on, but the important things in life will not always be there. Your kids grow up. Relationships can grow cold and distant.
Passion for things you love to do can grow dim. Not many people get to the end of life and say, “I wish I had spent more time working”. Balance your work with the rest of life and recognize the importance of the things that are less urgent.
Make solitude work for you by recognizing there’s a time for it, and a time for connecting with others. When you do this, your solitude will be more productive, and you will become a better, more well-rounded person, which can only impact your business in a positive way.
– a note from the Coach’s desk
Business Supports in Huron County: If you need to talk with someone about where you’re business is going and the affects of COVID-19 on your economic well-being, please reach out to our business coach, Tina Heathers at email@example.com.
Alternatively, contact the experienced business professionals at the Huron County Economic Development Department with your business-related questions and issues. Contact Patrick Donnelly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mental Health Supports in Huron County: Your mental health is important. Please see and download the mental health resources flyer, put together by Huron County Economic Development. For additional supports, we recommend that you phone 2-1-1 or visit www.211.ca.