“World Well-being Week will provide the opportunity for all participants to promote an overall awareness for the various aspects of well-being, including social, physical, emotional, financial, career, community and environmental well-being.”
This is a fantastic initiative that encourages employers to look at the well-being of their employees; teachers to encourage their pupils to look at their well-being and professional bodies from all walks of life to think about all aspects of what they do. It doesn’t necessarily mean work/life balance, although I’m sure that is part of it, but also focuses on mental health, the community and the environment.
It got me thinking about my own situation and how I can look at my own well-being and think about others in my situation. I work from home in a very rural area of France. I do have friends here and we meet up from time to time, but for the most part, I am in my own home, on my own, for up to 12 hours a day. I admit to talking to my cat and the chickens…and sometimes the wall…and always to myself! But working from home can be a very isolating place.
When you first give up work to go it alone, it’s exciting…you never have to return to your old job; if you have children, you don’t have to worry about childcare during school holidays; you don’t have to sit on a motorway, or get stuck in traffic every morning/evening; the world is your oyster, you can do what you want, when you want. But…well…it doesn’t always work out that way. These things are definitely a plus and whoever you work for might get increased productivity, a lower turnover and lower overall costs if you work from home, but there are some downsides. And it’s vitally important to maintain a work/life balance, as when you are working from home, with little distraction, it’s all too easy to work much longer hours than you would if you were employed.
Working from home also has its distractions…your dog barking, a neighbour popping in for coffee unannounced, family popping round or ringing as they know you’re there. And of course, social media! It’s easy to put Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest on and get lost in it for over an hour without even realising it, so you need to be disciplined.
It’s also been suggested that not being in an office environment can actually hinder your career – out of sight, out of mind – so you might get overlooked for promotions or working on important projects, simply because you’re not visible.
However, I want to concentrate on your well-being if you choose to work from home.
Most of the time, you will be alone…little interaction with other co-workers, no team to talk to, no one to bounce your ideas around with. In fact, a study conducted by Buffer in 2018, found that loneliness was the biggest struggle among remote workers, with 21% reporting that they’d experienced it. If left, loneliness can lead to depression, which is a common problem for many entrepreneurs who work along on a regular basis. One study found that 30% of entrepreneurs have struggled with depression.
If this rings true with you, there is light at the end of the tunnel as there are loads of ways to avoid loneliness when working at home. Here are a few:
- You can work anywhere, so long as there is Wi-Fi. We all tend to huddle in our home offices, but it is just as easy to go to a local café, or even take a break away to a different town…and still work. It is a distraction to be isolated from others, so working from a café or other location, you will meet other people or just be around other people.
- Work outside. Instead of sitting in your office, why not relocate to your garden, terrace or balcony? You’re still at home, but you are out in the sunshine and fresh air.
- Plan a break into your day. Try and get out of the house and your office space once a day. Maybe take a yoga class…you just have to plan it into your day, so you could start a bit earlier on that day, or work a bit later. You could go shopping for meet a friend for a coffee during your break. It will definitely make a difference and a change from the same four walls.
- Get one of those Wi-Fi portable devices/dongles. This way you can work wherever you like…at the park, the beach, a bar…wherever you fancy working. It comes at a small cost, but it’s worth it for your well-being.
- Have a working break. Arrange to have a few days away. Sometimes a change of scenery is invigorating and brings out your creative side. Go to a nice B&B or hotel and enjoy working in a different environment. You could even take a working break in another country, factor in some holiday time whilst you’re there and have the best of both worlds.
- Have a virtual meeting. If you work as part of a virtual team, or work for a particular person, it’s usual for any interaction to be via email or online chat. So why not arrange a Skype or Face-time meeting. These are great as you can interact with the person on video and it’s like being in the same room. Research suggests that face to face interaction is essential for identifying opportunities for collaboration, innovation and developing relationships and networks.
- Networking meetings. Another great resource for homeworkers is joining a networking meeting on a regular basis. These meetings generally take place early morning as a breakfast meeting or for a couple of hours in the morning leading up to lunch. It’s worth factoring these into your working life, even if you only go once a month, or once every two months. You’ll meet like-minded people and get the chance to talk to other businesses and share ideas. Networking often leads to collaborations, so what have you got to lose?
Obviously there will be evidence both for working at home and against. It’s really up to you which one you choose to do. It’s worth remembering that you need to be a self-starter, can focus on the tasks you have to complete in a day without distractions and that you are well organised. But all the other aspects I’ve talked about also need to be taken into consideration.
For me, yes…it can be lonely at times, but I make time every couple of weeks to meet with friends for coffee during the day, or a friend comes to me to lunch or vice versa. I also sing in a band, so I have the weekly evening rehearsal to look forward to and gigs some weekends, so that kind of takes care of my social life. I’d be lying if I said I never wonder what it would be like to go back to a 9-5 office job and, for some it might be an option to do a part time job and work from home too. It’s got to be right for you and your well-being and it’s so important for your mental health to have a work/life balance.
If you have any stories about working from home and how you combat the isolation, I’d love to hear from you…or feel free to share in the comments section.