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Life After Salary: The Human Connection

This article was written by in Career and Work, Featured. 20 comments.


Working in an office on a team with other employees is a social activity. Although there is work to be done and goals to accomplish, and although most of us stare at computer screens all day and spend most of the time in a cubicle or an office, many tasks require communicating with the people around us.

Many people cite their co-workers as the primary reason for staying in their current job. When all else is frustrating and disappointing on the job, you can always count on your officemates for a sounding boards and commiseration.

As I shift from working in a corporate department consisting of offices, cubicles, and people to occupy them to my home with no human company, I’ll need to grow accustomed to not having anyone to chat with during the day other than my cat. He listens and occasionally responds, but I’m not convinced he understands.

I’m a single guy, so I’m used to spending time by myself. I’d prefer to have some social interaction throughout the day, however. I have a few options to consider.

Meet friends for lunch.

I’m not the only self-employed individual making his own hours in my social circle. I have the opportunity to meet my friends for lunch as frequently as we can arrange. This isn’t difficult when we all have the ability to make our own hours to an extent and can take a break in the middle of the day for an hour or two if necessary.

My soon-to-be-former co-workers are interested in getting together for lunch occasionally, as well. They’ll be limited to their typical lunch hour. Although they have some flexibility with scheduling and can take a longer lunch occasionally, I’ll have to respect their time constraints. During busy periods of the year, this plan may not work at all. There were many times we were too busy to leave the office for lunch. Dinner is another option, but my concern is the ability to break up the “work hours” with interaction with people.

Move my work out of my home.

A friend of mine intends to rent office and warehouse space for his audio production and installation company. He offered to set me up with an office in the new space. It would be a perfect arrangement were it not for the fact that the office will be forty minutes from my house. On the other hand, I could travel to and from the location outside of the busy rush hour. Perhaps I will take him up on the offer.

Another idea is to join a co-working space. There are a few such locations in New Jersey, such as Converge. I’m not sure this arrangement is worth the expense, and I’m not convinced that it would provide enough social interaction. It would allow me to have a work space where I’m not distracted, like I could easily be at home or even in my friend’s new office space.

There are cafés and fast food locations (like Panera) that offer free WiFi access to the internet, which many freelancers or aspiring writers use for their daily activities. The benefit here could be meeting new, friendly, like-minded people, but it’s more likely that other individuals would prefer not to be bothered. Still, being around people in public could be a good way to keep myself sane.

Attend more conferences.

I’ve attended blogging-related conferences occasionally, but I generally find the seminars a complete waste of time. The way information is presented often reminds me of those awful motivational speakers a former boss of mine loved. The presentations are full of general information, none of which was particularly unique or insightful, designed primarily to make attendees feel happy or to sell a product without much long-term benefit.

The best aspect about these conferences takes place behind the scenes. There are opportunities to meet people from around the world with similar interests and goals, but networking doesn’t make the conference tickets worth the price. If you are invited to speak, however, you have the opportunity to reach people — and if you offer a presentation that does go beyond making people feel happy or selling a product, you could stand out amongst mediocrity.

Attending conferences doesn’t change the day-to-day likelihood of increased lonesomeness induced by working in a solitary environment, but without set hours or schedules, there is the flexibility to travel more often and meet interesting people.

Do you work out of your home? How do you keep a connection with other humans? Is the idea of interaction throughout the day overrated?

Updated January 3, 2011 and originally published December 13, 2010. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Financial Samurai

Flexo, thought you had a girlfriend mate? Or are you referring to single, as in not married? At any rate, perhaps we’ll see you out in Vegas or SF more if you plan on going to conferences! So much going on in Manhattan too, so I’m sure you’ll find a lot of cool interactive opps.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,475 (Platinum)

I’m referring to single as in not married and living alone.

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avatar DoNotWait

Interesting options that I am sure can work. You have to create other source of relationships. Maybe getting involved in an association can also help? Like your local chamber of commerce or other association relevant to your field.

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avatar Hazzard

I’ve been working out of the house for about 7 years now. It definitely took some getting used to but I’ve learned to enjoy the freedom and flexibility it provides. Here are a few of the things that I do:

-Try to go in to a corporate office at least once a week
-Heavily utilize instant messaging
-Pick up the phone to talk to people
-Attend a LOT of teleconferences (nature of my job)

I realize this is completely different than your arrangement since I’m still working a corporate job but I think the key is to form relationships with people that you can interact with each day. I think a daily teleconference with other like minded bloggers would yield huge returns. It would give you a chance to discuss the news of the day and would spur lots of blogging ideas! Just 30 minutes a day would probably be very rewarding.
Hazzard

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avatar Goner

I’ve been working out of my home office since June and I love it. I am married and my wife works. Though I can’t imagine life without her, I love the quietness of the day here and the fact that I don’t have to drive anywhere or spend much money on work clothes. By far the best thing about being self-employed are the hours (I work when I want to) and the fact that I have NO boss. I don’t miss people as I am kind of an introvert anyway. I can imagine not everyone can do what I do but they may reconsider if they knew how much I pull down. I will retire at age 49, in a few years. When I retire and move back to some quiet corner of the USA or UK, I am considering selling my entire life here to someone who thinks they can do what I do. 8 years to a million plus: any takers?

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avatar J Baba

I am interested. Whats the catch here?

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avatar Goner

Should have read ‘June of 2005′ !!

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avatar Barb Friedberg

I telecommute and LOVE it! My 2 kittens are excellent company, although sometimes they “help too much” by sitting on my work. I do a lot of work at internet cafes, the library, and a beautiful hotel. You are correct that individuals in these places are not in “friend making mode.” I also schedule lunches and drinks out with friends to avoid isolation! Once you get used to it, you are going to love it. If not, call me and yell at me for being wrong :)
Best of luck

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avatar Yo Yo MaMa

Ten years at a home office – both as a consultant and employee – some advice – 1. Try to get some exercise every day [would that I listen to this myself!]; 2. Use the telephone and physically TALK to people, form alliances and relationships with vendors, sources, colleagues. If they live within driving distance, arrange to meet colleagues (fellow bloggers, finance people, news sources) for luncheon meetings, etc (tax deductible too in many cases); 3. Go to local business networking meetings – be selective – but it’s one way to meet others in your area with similar office arrangements and you can network and get lots of good ideas; 4. If possible, try to travel to a relevant conference at least once every quarter (is Comic-Con included in this?) 5. Teleconference, webinar as much as possible. Work your sources! I’m beyond IM as I find this intrusive, but that’s just a quirk of me, whatever works for you.

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avatar DonnaFreedman ♦75 (Newbie)

Struggling with this myself. If I worked at Panera I’d be hard-pressed not to give in to the wonderful food there. I bet I could eat half a loaf of bread during a work session — the stuff is irresistible! Ditto the McDonald’s down the street, another free wifi source.
That said: While visiting NJ for a month in September, I would sometimes stop at a McDonald’s to do a little work and found I got a lot done there. At my dad’s house there were more distractions. Right now I’m in Anchorage, Alaska, and last weekend I got a surprising amount of writing done while waiting for my niece and her boys to finish splashing at an indoor water park. The noise level was high, the smell of the chlorine strong, but there was NOTHING ELSE TO DO. No phone calls. No neighbors knocking. No laundry needing to be folded. And, yeah, no refrigerator calling my name.
I’m considering making one or two afternoons a week “outside” work times, just to see whether it makes a difference. There’s an Asian/Western market near me that has free wifi. I could probably sit in the coffee area (lots of tables, rarely full) and do an assignment, then stop in the grocery area for bananas or whatever I needed.
I do miss the camaraderie of a newsroom. But working for myself, by myself, has its perks — such as being able to travel.

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avatar brianahasmoney ♦367 (Nickel)

I don’t work from home (yet) but I’m highly considering a coworking set-up or meeting friends for lunch :) Looking forward to it

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avatar Jenna

I used to work from home when I was doing freelance work and found that I ended up spending a lot more money because I needed more social interactions, coffees, lunches and happy hours all add up pretty quickly.

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avatar vcmcguire

I have been working from home for a few years now and I really like it.

Something that helps me–have work dates with friends. This is different from a coffee or lunch date that takes you out of work mode. Usually my friend and I agree to chat for half an hour or so and then get down to work. I’m very portable and can work from almost anywhere with my laptop as long as there’s a good wifi connection. Sometimes a friend comes to my house, or I go to a friend’s house, or we meet at a convenient cafe (NOT a McDonald’s!) and work together for a few hours. Sometimes we interrupt each other (“can you read this for me and tell me if I’ve gotten the tone right?”) but still I get a lot of work done doing this and it’s nice to have company.

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avatar Investor Junkie

Networking outside of the home is important.

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avatar MR ♦295 (Nickel)

Working 3rd shift once during summer for 2 1/2 week, I learned the lesson of human interaction!

I would definitely try to get out around people at least a bit! Another option would be to try and find a low interaction job that wouldn’t be too disruptive to your blogging. That way it’s a win-win-win!
win1: You get paid to work on your blog
win2: You get occasional interaction
win3: You get a little bit of extra money (perhaps for investments, or wild spending money)?

Maybe such a job would be someone who sits are a security from desk? Retail?

Sorry, aimless thoughts on my part! It’s just that you have so many options now! :)

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avatar Kyle

I enjoy working in coffee shops (and especially bars with wifi), but the security issues of working on my business over an insecure network give me pause.

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avatar Janet

I think I’d go stir-crazy working from home. Not to mention, it’s easy to lose motivation when you’re in your cozy space. I guess I associate my home with relaxing, but that would change if I had to work there, too.

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avatar DoNotWait

You’d have to create a “work space” in your home. You’re still cozier than in a typical work cubicle but not as disturbed by everything else around. Of course, some do not have as much space to do so. But it truly helps.

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avatar Stella

Interacting with other humans is highly overrated. ;)

Just kidding.

Good luck with the freelancing–I’m sure you’ll figure it out.

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avatar 4hendricks ♦248 (Cent)

I really need an office for structure – I would hermit if it weren’t for my office. Sad but true

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