Four social strategies to ease telecommuting stress

Get out for a walk!

Get out for a walk!

Anyone who’s ever worked from home for a significant time will connect with Steven J. Brachmann’s new post, Telecommuting: A Tough Life.

I’ve worked mostly from home for the past 17 years or so, mostly as a freelance writer. From my perspective, the pros are incredible–flexible work hours, time with my children, no commute, no special wardrobe, and my own personal office (once a bedroom, I’m sure) that meets my needs for a daydream space. It’s my happy place.

This is also the lifestyle I want for myself. I love being able to snuggle with my toddler when he needs me or help my older children with their school work. Writing what I want, when I want and accepting the assignments that bring me the most education and happiness is deeply satisfying. In many ways, working at home is a dream come true.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges. Some of them I’ve addressed in earlier posts–Messy Office, Messy Mind and Baby in the background: is this professional? are the first two examples that spring to mind.

Brachmann, however, discusses a challenge I haven’t yet broached: freelancers sometimes feel keenly isolated.

From his post:

I’d add an extra one to this list: Get out. Seriously. Leave your house, if only for a walk. I lived for a month with a very close friend of mine in a different state; it sounded like it would be a great vacation. After three weeks of seeing nobody but him day after day, I began to get a little stir crazy. When you don’t leave the house for work, what do you leave the house for? Working some fresh air into my schedule has done wonders for myself.

For myself, I’ve found three things that help alleviate the crazy sense that you’re all alone in the world.

  1. Send weekly updates to your clients. This seems like a common-sense maneuver, but I have to admit it’s a practice I’ve only recently taken up. It’s been especially valuable with my oil field writing, as so much of that is extremely detail oriented and it’s sometimes difficult to get in touch with sources. Keeping the editor in the loop is simply a good idea. These weekly updates have also been a great tool for keeping me on track with long-term projects for private clients–and the interaction, even if it’s just weekly, is at least a connection to the outside world. Every telecommuter needs that.
  2. Get on Facebook (or your other favorite social networking site) at least once a day. Yes, I’m serious. I know, I know, it’s sooooo easy to waste time there…but a kind word or two from you to a friend needing encouragement can never go wrong. They’ll be likely to return the favor, and besides, giving someone a smile–even if it’s only electronically–helps you remember that you have something to offer to the wider world. Sometimes it even motivates you to get together with your friends–and that brings me to my third point.
  3. At least once a week, visit with someone. In person. This might mean taking a friend to lunch, taking supper to the neighbor, or calling a friend and heading out the door for a run together. It doesn’t have to be big. It certainly doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t even have to be time consuming. Twenty minutes, for me, does the trick–although I like to do this more than once a week if I can, simply because it’s fun.
  4. Call someone who understands why you do what you do. For me, the effectiveness of this strategy falls between a Facebook contact and an in-person chat. I call a friend from out of state who also loves writing and editing. Just hearing her speak enthusiastically about the work she’s doing is enough to keep me motivated on rough days.

In the long run, these small efforts have paid off big for me. Not only have I felt more productive at work (due at least in part to the new perspectives I get from fresh air and fun human interaction), but my social life has blossomed.

That’s another challenge that people who work at home face sometimes, but I have to say, that problem is always totally worth it.

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4 Comments to “Four social strategies to ease telecommuting stress”

  1. I’m so glad my post reverberated so strongly for you! And it’s very inspirational to read the work of someone who has gotten that career style to work for so long. I agree, the challenges are completely worth what I might be able to build for myself someday. This has been one of my more popular posts and I’m thinking about regularly covering freelance and telecommuting news on my blog; there might be a readership for this. Looking forward to reading more of your work!

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    • Thanks! I would love to read more posts about telecommuting. I think those of us who do this have to encourage each other as much as possible.

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  2. Ever since I’ve taken time off to pursue writing, I’ve noticed that #3 becomes very important. It’s so easy to get sealed off in our own little worlds. I need to remember to make an effort to interact in the real world–not only with the hubby and kids–which, for an introvert, is never easy in the first place. 🙂

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