Working virtually (for yourself, or for someone else) has a long list of advantages, including a reduced commute time, savings on eating out, less stress from office politics, and the ability to work in your own space.
However, what most virtual workers don’t talk about, yet we all struggle with, is the feeling of isolation and loneliness that comes with being physically by yourself all day long.
In fact, if I don’t have any meetings booked, I can go for days without seeing the outside world, or a client and colleague.
Sound dreamy? Sound like it would be nice and quiet, and you have all kinds of time to concentrate on your work?
For the most part, it is.
BUT we’re all human beings and human beings need interaction with one another; otherwise we can start to feel isolated from the outside world, start to become depressed, and lose the ability to think critically.
In fact, “…a wave of new research suggests social separation is bad for us. Individuals with less social connection have disrupted sleep patterns, altered immune systems, more inflammation and higher levels of stress hormones. One recent study found that isolation increases the risk of heart disease by 29 percent and stroke by 32 percent.” (Khullar, D., nytimes.com)
So how do you ensure that you can work effectively, creatively, and remotely all without losing out on the benefits of social interaction with other people?
Find and Participate in a Like-Minded Community
When you surround yourself with a group of people that ‘get it’, it can make a HUGE difference for your mindset and finding the motivation to keep going.
When you are a virtual worker, you are in essence working for yourself, by yourself, no matter where the pay happens to be coming in from.
It can be really lonely having no one to stop in the hallway and have an impromptu chat with, or a colleague to bounce ideas off of as you refill your coffee mug.
Having a community of people that are in the same working environment that you are means you have a group of people that understand the ups and the downs, positives and the negatives, of working on your own.
You can comfortably talk about how you haven’t changed out of your track-pants and sweater for 3 days without getting a loaded stare (you know the one).
Instead, your peers have been there before, and completely understand the reality of ‘forgetting’ to get dressed every day and what a mountain of work looks like as it spills into your weekend.
Get Out Of The House!
With the opportunity to do so much online today, and while I’m a big advocate for leveraging technology in order to skyrocket productivity, it’s also important to recognize when it’s time to simply leave your house.
For a very long time, I ordered my groceries and household supplies online and had them delivered to me.
Doing my errands this way meant that I could take 10 minutes to click a few icons, set my delivery date, then go back to work.
Yet, after a few months of doing this, I realized that if I didn’t go out once in a while to do the groceries myself, I wouldn’t leave the house at all.
So, in order to get myself out into the land of the living, I made the decision to set aside one day per week where I would physically go out and run my errands.
I also coordinated with my best friend, so that we would do our weekly shop together, which meant that I not only left the house, but I got to go and hang out with her too!
Now, I chat about my week, hear about hers, we interact with the employees at each store that we go to…for me it’s helped me to stay connected with the outside world in a very casual (but important!) way.
A lot of virtual or remote workers (and entrepreneurs) are hesitant to talk about how lonely things can get when they are working by themselves.
In fact, even when working with an entire remote team, the lack of physical or social interaction can start to weigh heavily on the mind.
The reality is, when you hear everyone else complaining about their circumstances (going into an office every day, not having control over their time, a lack of productivity, micromanaging managers…) it can feel like you are being ungrateful for the opportunity to work wherever you want.
It’s like there is an unwritten social rule somewhere that says, “if you work remotely, then you’ve got it made and you aren’t allowed to complain!”.
Please put that thought aside, and remember that when you feel lonely, or isolated, it’s a valid feeling and one that you need to take notice of.
The consequences of allowing that kind of feeling grow for a long period of time are serious, which is why you need to take action as soon as you notice it.
If you’re looking for a community of like-minded peers, then you’ve come to the right place!
Click here to check out the Academy, where we help you develop, or build on, the skills you need to start and run a successful virtual business.