8 Ways to Cope With Working Alone

by Tom Ewer 6 Minutes

solo workerLike many of you I make my money working from home. Despite having daily contact with my clients sometimes it’s tough; loneliness can creep in and before you know it you can be overcome with feelings of isolation.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who sometimes misses their old job purely from a human contact perspective. Office banter, chatting about weekend plans or simply having another person to bounce ideas off are all things I yearn for every now and then.

Loneliness isn’t a hot topic of conversation amongst remote workers. It’s somewhat stigmatized and aligned with weakness in the same way that depression and anxiety are. But it’s okay to feel that way; we all do from time to time.

So how can you cope with working alone? In this post I’ll highlight at some simple but effective methods to help you banish the isolation blues.

1. Structure Your Day

Many people are unprepared for how difficult it can be to work alone without the support that an office or workplace environment gives you. When it’s just you, it can be really challenging to get motivated and stay focused. That is where creating structure will really help you.

You should approach your day no differently than when you had a regular job. You should get up by a certain time, have breakfast and get dressed. The idea of working in your PJs might seem fun but it automatically puts you in a relaxed mindset that could negatively affect your approach to work. Arrange your day into blocks of time with plenty of scheduled breaks to give you time away from your desk to get some air and chill out.

Loneliness can lead to periods of self-doubt and a tendency to dwell on things which in turn will kill your productivity. Having a structure that is well organized and planned in advance will keep you centered on your goals, help you feel energized and reduce stress.

2. Leave the House as Often as You Can

All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Developing mild agoraphobia is a real danger for people who work from home. It’s all too easy to be ‘too busy’ for a break or decide that you’re too tired to socialize or go to the gym and before you know it days have gone by where you haven’t left the house.

Getting away from your desk and taking a walk round the block will give you a boost and you’ll return to work feeling refreshed and motivated. Fresh air and time to think will give you a new perspective on your work and I guarantee you’ll get much more done than if you’d sat chained to your PC all day.

3. Make Lunch Dates

Spending large amounts of time alone can impact on your social skills and it can be easy to get out of practice talking to people in non-work related situations. So make lunch dates with friends, visit your family for an hour and pencil in some gym time into your schedule. Forget texting and Facebook and pick up the telephone and have a real conversation with someone.

Any human contact is beneficial even if it’s polite chit chat with the cashier at the grocery store or a smile and hello to the waitress who serves your coffee.

4. Join a Group

Joining your local business network is a great way of making new friends, getting out of the house and building a support network. There should be plenty of local events you can attend or groups you can join that will put you in touch with potential clients as well as new contacts.

Creating a support network of other like-minded business people and solo workers is really useful as you can offer each other advice and tips and you know they’ll understand how you feel when you’re having ‘one of those days’. You can also build a network online through forums and by subscribing to relevant blogs where there’ll be lots of people in a similar situation happy to listen and offer solutions.

5. Work Away From Home

If the sight of the same four walls is starting to get to you then try working away from home once or twice a week. Take advantage of the free Wi-Fi offered in many cafes, or your local library could be a good solution if you prefer peace and quiet.

You could also consider hiring a desk at a dedicated coworking space. Coworking is becoming more popular and is a low-cost way of becoming part of a coworking community. And it’s not just about sharing the same physical space it’s about engaging with other like-minded professionals and recapturing part of the sense of belonging to a group that you just don’t get when you work alone.

Coworking spaces have been the birth place of recent successes like ezeep and Coffee Circle, whose founders champion the flexibility that coworking spaces offer.

Leaving your regular environment can also help in that it may give you a fresh perspective and the boost in motivation that comes from working in a collaborative environment.

6. Get a Dog

No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as the dog does. ~ Christopher Morley

Many studies have suggested that having a dog can actually improve our sense of wellbeing. One US study went further and studied how taking a dog to work boosted morale and reduced stress levels.

Having a canine friend can provide companionship and also relieve feelings of loneliness. They are also pretty good listeners! If you have a dog you’ll have to stick to a routine, take it for regular walks and give it plenty of one-on-one attention.

You might be able to skip breaks because you’re too busy, but with a dog in your life there’s no excuse for not walking it. And as we discussed earlier, being out in the fresh air and getting the blood pumping is good for productivity.

7. Tell People How You Feel

We have a popular saying in Britain that a problem shared is a problem halved.

When you feel lonely and a bit down it is vital that you share your feelings with the people closest to you. It’s all too easy to be consumed by feelings of isolation and end up retreating from the world. Reaching out to others and getting your problems off your chest will help put things into perspective and talking it through will provide ideas to help combat your feelings.

If people are aware that sometimes you struggle with the long periods of solitude that come with home-working they will be more likely to arrange lunch dates with you or drop you a message to say hello.

8. Embrace It

One of the best gifts you can give yourself is quiet time with yourself. If you listen, the silence speaks volumes. ~ Anon

Being alone doesn’t have to mean being lonely. Quietness and solitude can often create the perfect environment in which to consider your work and the direction in which you are heading.

Modern life has a hectic 24/7 pace and it is impossible sometimes to block out the noise in order to hear your inner-most thoughts.

Christopher J. Edgar writes about the benefits of working in silence on his blog. He says,

Sitting alone in a quiet place can be a difficult experience.  Without distractions, we can feel bombarded by unpleasant thoughts and emotions…However, the ability to be with silence is critical to getting our work done efficiently and enjoyably.

Making the transition from noisy office-working to peaceful home-working can be overwhelming but it is important to remember that you are never completely on your own. Many freelancers and business people relish the quiet time and liken solo working to being in a tranquil sanctuary. So embrace it and don’t be afraid to open up to yourself and let your mind really think.

Final Thoughts

Working from home provides the opportunity for people to control their working day and the absence of interruption, which leads to hours of unbroken focus and concentration can increase productivity. The downside of long periods alone leading to feelings of isolation, can be combatted by making the effort to remain connected with the outside world.

Ultimately solo working simply won’t suit everyone and there is a case for accepting that this style of labor is sometimes best suited to those who are happier in their own company.

Tom Albrighton recently discussed why he prefers to work alone and unashamedly admits that he is just not a people person.

I’ve always been happy on my own. As a child, I could often be found reading, drawing or building something out of Lego. I learnt the piano, perhaps the supreme solo instrument. I always disliked team sports, and today enjoy running (alone, not races) rather than any group activity. And I’ve never really been one for joining clubs or socialising in large groups.

So is working alone a path to freedom or a one-way ticket to solitary confinement? That is really up to you to decide.

Whatever type of business you run, self-employment will give you the chance to shape your own working reality. Yes, there are times when you will crave interaction and company but that is to be expected when you are operating in a remote, online method which by its very nature is autonomous.

Do you work alone? How do you cope? I’d love to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment below!

Photo credit wiredforlego at Instagram

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by Tom Ewer
Tom Ewer and the WordCandy team have clocked some serious mileage as freelancers, agency employees and even agency owners over the years, and they love sharing their combined expertise here on the Bidsketch blog.