My best Office friend recently told me that she didn't know how I could work at home all day, saying that she's way too social to be cut off from everyone.
There are a lot of people like my friend. It's true that the Home Office can be a lonely place. In the Office, you are barraged by background noise, you see people on your way to lunch or the restroom, and generally you interact face to face with folks on a regular basis. As nice as it is to have people around you, though, there are times when you wish it would all go away in some sort of Calgon moment. Those first few glorious months of working from home in a quiet, peaceful environment can be blissful. But what happens when the serenity loses its shine? It does get a bit quiet...sometimes too quiet.
Is anyone out there?
I have a few tips for keeping your Office Separation Anxiety (OSA*) at bay:
- Skip an e-mail, pick up the phone. It's so easy to bang out an e-mail to someone, but pick up the phone and call that person instead. If you were in the Home Office, these would be the times you get up from your desk and go visit someone. You don’t have that anymore, so a phone call will have to work as a substitute. It makes you look accessible work-wise, and gets that much needed voice interaction going.
- Have an Office friend to call. I arranged that I would call my Office friend on a semi-regular basis to chat about nothing in particular. Yes, during work hours. It's the equivalent of chatting over the cubicle wall (that oh-so-horrible crime against productivity that happens in every company, at every level, everyday) and is one of the things I missed the most.
- Turn on some kind of background chatter. Some people just need to have some noise on, but try to stay away from daytime TV. No one wants to actually hear Oprah on in the background. It could easily create an OWJ (Office Worker Jealousy) issue. Talk or local news radio, NPR, or a cable news channel are all good alternatives (that won’t tempt you away from your work like daytime TV can either!). If you need the sounds of a real office, there are CDs available to make you feel more like you are at the Office. (Why didn't I think of that?)
- Throw yourself into your work. Keep your eyes on the prize, and concentrate on getting your job done. It may seem obvious, but sometimes the best way to keep from getting bored at work is to work.
- Talk to the dog/cat. They may actually look up at you from their napping when you do. They are your co-workers now! Greet them each morning with "How are you today, Fluffy?" or call out "Did you see the game last night? That score was amazing!" on your way to the bathroom. Sure, they aren't going to answer back (and if they do, think about getting some help), but sometimes it’s the sound of our own voice that does the trick.
- There's also "co-working" which is another big trend right now. You basically share an office with someone else who is working from home. You can read about it here and here.
Face it - we're social creatures, we humans. We need some interaction.
It's ok to be lonely sometimes. It happens to everyone. If you are finding the separation from the Office is getting to be too much, try some of these tips or discuss it with your supervisor.