WELL-KNOWN New York Times columnist Megan Greenwell responds to a readers question.
Q: I work remotely from my home. The isolation and loneliness are really getting me down. Also, I’m fairly new to my city and have two young children and I 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 no 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 work days.
A: After four years of my working from home, the thrill of the perks (no more commute, no more business casual, etc) have worn off, I find myself unable to separate work from just living. This state of constant multitasking has exhausted me and 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? You are romanticising office life far more than any cheesy movie about a co-worker meets-cute.
Does your company use a messaging service that has replaced face-to-face communication? It is mostly a waste of time and also, according to nearly every remote worker I know, a total sanity saver because it allows you to share dumb jokes with someone other than your dog or your toddler. If you spend much of your workday on the phone, taking your calls near other people is not going to make you feel any less isolated, but an occasional video conference meeting and a virtual place to drop in tweets that enrage you will help break up the day.
But when 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. 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 rascals is almost unfathomably difficult, so it’s not difficult to see how dealing with both those things at once could make you despair that you’ll escape your home again. But you are in desperate need of friends and hobbies and an occasional baby sitter so you can connect with real live adults in a far deeper way than water-cooler chat allows. 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 while your kids play with finger paints.
This article first appeared in The New York Times.