Recently my husband was chatting to someone who has been working at home for the past year or so now. At first it was exciting for them and they were very focused on what they were doing. But, more recently, they’re finding it hard, can’t focus, not feeling productive and feeling very alone. They’re losing their motivation.
My husband told this person that he and I both also work at home, and we have each other for company. But he’s only been at home, himself for just over two years, whereas for me, it’s nearly twenty-five years. He told this person that I belong to several groups, go out networking, go to club events, participate in hobbies (photography, gardening, etc) and that seems to work really well for me. He and I later chatted about it and my husband says he remembers that this person was involved in an external project earlier in the year and was very happy back then. That clearly being isolated contributes to the feeling of depression and they need to find something to do externally from their work, and away from home. They’re currently looking for a part time job, or perhaps a volunteer role for an organisation that will keep their mind challenged.
This is something I’ve known for a long time. Think I discovered it myself in the early days of my business. The first year was great and I also felt like I was on a long holiday, doing stuff that I enjoyed and getting paid for it. But, somewhere along the line, reality set in, and with it the realisation that I was alone, day after day. It was before the Internet so the phone, or being physically amongst people, was the only way to get some company. I’d come from the corporate world and while I didn’t really enjoy that world, I was used to the background noise and chatter. I’ve always had the radio on in the background here at home and that has been good company for me over the years, but there’s nothing like having some companionship too. And frankly, we were made for fellowship, for being with other people, and companionship helps to bring laughter, acceptance, happiness, sharing and so many other things.
That’s where the value of networking comes in, and belonging to clubs or groups outside of our businesses and our homes. For me it’s a mix of photography, gardening and giving back to community through my local Rotary Club. It’s about mixing and mingling with people with common interests and passions, being free to explore our creativity and freeing up our minds from business activities. In doing so, our minds are free to hear, listen and think about possibilities. Learning from others – how they dealt with problems, what they might need help with, how they can help you. It’s amazing how often I come up with new ideas, or answers to challenges, when I’m not actually in my office but elsewhere, sometimes when alone walking with my camera, and other times when having a cuppa with others at a local cafe.
No, social media and the Internet won’t fill this spot. While you can chatter with others online, it’s not the same as physically seeing people, reading their body language, shaking hands and hugging, which provides physical touch that releases endorphins (didn’t know that, did you?) and fulfills a human need.
Never underestimate the value of taking time off from your business and going someplace else for a little while, an hour or two, or three. It’s that age old concept of sharpening your axe and you can’t do that when in the middle of work to be done – it can only be done when you have removed yourself from your work place for a period of time. Why not make a habit of it? You might not feel so lonely anymore and feelings of depression may dissipate. You may well find your focus and passion again and concentration will be better. Yes, you’ll spend a bit less time in your office but the time you do spend there will be better focused and managed. All because you took time out to regroup and refresh. Try it!
Kathie is the owner of VA Directory and is former past President of the Australian VA Association. She founded the Virtual Assistant industry in Australia in the mid 90s, having already been operating a home-based secretarial service. Today the VA industry covers a multitude of office-based services for clients worldwide.