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.