Workplace expert and columnist Megan Ggreenwell answers two questions from readers.
Q1: I work remotely from my home, but the isolation and loneliness are getting me down.
Also, I’m fairly new to the city, have two young children and don’t have any close friends I can socialise with after hours.
I’ve tried to find a job that will allow me to work on site, but I live in a city with a tourist economy and there are literally zero jobs where I can earn a comparable income and work in an office.
I try to spend time in coffee shops and other “co-working” spaces as much as possible, but my job requires me to spend so much time on the telephone that I often need to be in a quieter space to get things done. Do you have any suggestions to help combat the loneliness and isolation? I feel like I’ve tried all of the typical options and am looking for some outside-of-the-box advice to help brighten my workdays.
Q2: After four years of my working from home and the thrill of the perks such as no more commuting and no more business casual, I have worn off and I find myself unable to separate work from just living.
This state of constant multitasking has me exhausted. I feel like everything is turning into one big blur of errands and emails. What are some strategies to help separate work from life when you work from home?
A: Were it not for the 1100km separating your homes and my lack of an expense account, I would force you to sit in a room together and solve this for each other. You share the same problem – and it is not the fact that you work from home.
Sarah, you are romanticising office life far more than any cheesy movie about a co-worker meets cute.
Every other conversation has happened electronically. If you spend much of your workday on the phone, taking your calls near other human beings is not going to make you feel any less isolated, but an occasional videoconference meeting and a virtual place to drop in tweets that enrage you will help break up the day.
But if you’re looking for “outside-the-box” advice, you need a bigger fix than a chat room. Your job is not your life, and the question you need to ask yourself is not “How do I improve my job?”, but “How do I improve my life?”.
Your loneliness is a real problem, and a common one. But the real problem underlying that real problem is that you see no opportunity for fulfilment outside work.
Adjusting to life in a new city is difficult, and parenting two small children is difficult, so it’s not tough to see how dealing with both of those things at once could make you despair that you’ll ever escape your home again.
But you are in desperate need of friends and hobbies, and an occasional babysitter so you can connect with adults in a far deeper way than water-cooler chat allows.
Meet-up groups feel corny, but they’re an effective way to meet people who share your interests. Even a play date with a family from your child’s preschool class would give you a chance to hang out with other adults for a change. Teresa, the way to better separate your work life from your home life is simply to do more outside work.
Here’s a foolproof strategy to stop you from answering emails: Use your hands for other things so that you physically can’t answer emails.
Make a space where you do nothing but your job, even if it is a folding desk in a corner of your studio. Set business hours, avoid running errands during your workday or answering emails during your down time whenever possible and do other things.
Megan Greenwell is the editor in chief of Deadspin and a workplace columnist at The New york Times.