By Kate Bradley
No commute? No heels or hose? Yes, please! An at-home gig can be a dream come true, but beware: Working in your pj's also means no water-cooler chats, coworker lunches, or after-work drinks. Read on for ways to combat the loneliness of telecommuting and stay sane and productive.
If you've been working remotely for a while now, you've probably figured out how to maximize your productivity and actually “go to work.” Designating and respecting a work space, taking regular breaks, and keeping normal business hours can all help you to feel connected to the rest of the business world. But even maintaining a schedule and environment similar to your old ones can't make up for what many women find to be a gnawing loneliness. Regular physical interaction with real, live humans is irreplaceable; when you work from home, you get the perks of telecommuting as well as the difficulties of finding and nurturing social outlets.
So, what's a girl to do? Just as you have to be “self-disciplined and focused"to be a successful work-at-home employee, so too must you make socializing something to which you give real effort. Be proactive, be creative, and don't be afraid to try something completely new.
Don't Work at Home
Not to worry – you don't need to haul out your pumps and suits! Consider finding and utilizing a co-working center; for just a small fee, you can set up your workspace in one of these collaborative facilities and take advantage of high-speed internet, business services, office machines, and, of course, other people. Working alongside other telecommuters can help you forge new relationships while still maintaining your work-at-home status. Check your state's telecommuter resources by clicking “here”.
Those couple of hours you're not spending in traffic every day? Donate them. Find a cause you're passionate about – tutoring children, rescuing animals, visiting the elderly in nursing homes – and volunteer where you're needed. You get to meet new people, feel great about yourself, and help an important cause. Everyone wins.
Use the Internet
In the digital age, it's not just for online dating anymore. Websites like SocialJane.com offer women “a quick and easy way” to find and make new girlfriends online. Other options to try include city-specific message boards, meetup-organizing websites, and online events calendars to find interesting people, places, and happenings near you.
Use Your Kids and/or Pets
What's the old joke about men using cute puppies to attract women? Make it work for you! Take your pooch to a dog park where dog owners are generally delighted to talk to fellow canine-loving humans. Got kids? Get to know their friends' parents. If they participate in any extra-curriculars, hit the bleachers on a mission. Put down your smartphone and chat up anyone who looks interesting.
Whatever your particular brand of fitness – team sports, jogging, or aerobics – you can find a group of ladies who'll enthusiastically do it with you. Check local gyms for classes and contact your area recreation department to sign up for softball or volleyball. Want a running buddy? Of course SocialJane.com is a great place to look, but so are other sites like SportPartner.com which specializes in connecting members to other active folks.
Learn or Teach
Most cities have a community college or rec center that offers free or low-cost classes on everything from foreign languages to pottery, as well as business-oriented classes on computer software and graphic design. If you already have a popular skill, offer to teach it. Community colleges generally pay per credit hour, so you can earn some extra cash and potentially make some new friends among the faculty or students.
Working at home can be a wonderful perk, but making time for yourself and nurturing your mental and physical health are paramount. If you're feeling lonely, don't ignore it. Step away from your computer every day at a reasonable hour and work on creating a social life that enjoy love and look forward to.