Working from home might sound like a dream, but one of the most obvious downsides is that you’re often alone. For some people, this only sweetens the deal, while for others, it can lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness, or anxiety.
Attempting to bulldoze through these feelings will likely end up going badly. Unless you’ve got the right disposition for this type of work in the first place, you may only end up digging yourself deeper into these negative feelings. In this article, you’ll find some ideas on how to avoid loneliness as a freelancer or simply while working from home.
How to Combat Loneliness When Working From Home?
There are many advantages of working from home, including more flexibility with professional and personal matters, a more comfortable environment, work autonomy and more. However, many home-based working people, including freelancers, feel lonely and suffer from isolation due to working solo. In fact, a study by Viking found that 64% of freelancers feel lonely on a daily basis. The Covid-19 pandemic and long mandatory isolation also negatively impacted many of us in this way.
Below you’ll find our recommendations to help you achieve a balance between working at home and still maintaining a human connection to the outside world.
Schedule Time to Socialise
Schedule at least one day a week to socialise. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that unless I set a social event in stone, I’ll often end up working through it or make excuses. I make sure that at least a week or two in advance, I set aside one day a week on which I spend time with friends.
If you’re a freelancer or have a flexible schedule, I recommend taking advantage of your autonomy during the day. Find time to treat yourself every now and again and meet with someone for a spontaneous lunch rather than staying at home.
Finding these friends in the first place can sometimes be an issue. Put your own passions to good use here and seek out interesting meetup groups (like on Facebook or Meetup), or look for clubs in areas you want to develop in. I personally like sports for this, as they’re good bonding activities, and there are many to choose from. This kind of activity automatically gives you something else to focus on and talk about while socializing. It also helps keep you fit when you may otherwise be sitting by your desk for several hours a day.
You can also look up interesting classes, courses, and workshops that are organised near you. This could range from yoga, gym, and pottery classes, to anything else you fancy. Smaller local meetups and workshops can also be more casual and less intimidating.
Work From a Coworking Space
Coworking is the concept of going to work in a shared office space alongside other independent professionals, or groups from smaller companies. You can either rent a desk on an occasional daily basis, or opt for a regular monthly slot. Some places offer 24/7 access and permanent desks, while others only operate during business hours and require you to take your belongings with you at the end of the day.
You might wonder, why go back to an office when it’s where you’ve just escaped from? It’s a reasonable point. However, a coworking space is on your own terms, with no boss looking over your shoulder, and you can leave whenever you want.
The bustle and normality of a coworking office space can help you feel far less isolated. As plenty of them offer free coffee as standard, you’re quite likely to meet some of your new fellow professionals for some occasional water-cooler chatter and networking.
The downside is cost – it can vary significantly depending on where you are based. However, expect to pay at least a couple hundred $/€/£ if you want a monthly contract. This only equates to a couple of cups of coffee a day though – which you’ll likely now be getting for free anyway!
If you’re based in or visiting Tbilisi in Georgia and are looking for a comfortable place to work, check out our list of the best coworking spaces in Tbilisi for freelancers and digital nomads.
Hit Up Your Local Coffee Shop
On the flipside of free coffee comes paid coffee – but with perks. Heading to your local coffee shop can give you a similar environment to a coworking space, but at the cost of a drink or two. They often offer free WiFi, tables, and nice seating, making them quite comfortable work environments.
At the same time, you’re not too likely to make many new acquaintances here – unless you get lucky with some friendly seat-neighbours or baristas. Some places may be too hectic to stay properly focused, but that’s normally nothing a pair of headphones can’t handle. If nothing else, spending a few hours in a coffee shop every now and again can get you out of the house and help you feel less isolated.
Instead of a coworking space or coffee shop, you can choose a local library, bookstore, or if you’re friends with others working from home – a friend’s place. Working outside of your home can boost your mood and dispel the feeling of loneliness. Or at least make you start missing your home office a bit.
Attend Industry-Related Meetups
If you’re working as a freelancer, you’ve likely been focusing on a specific niche. Attending meetups for professionals in your industry can help with networking, staying informed with industry-wide changes, simply making friends, and as a result, fighting off loneliness.
Industry-related events can be an opportunity to learn, and exchange not only opinions but also contact information. You could start with virtual conferences, which have become especially common due to Covid. This way you can check what to expect and if it’s your cup of tea.
A couple of good options to find these industry events are Eventbrite and Meetup. Local Facebook groups and subreddits can also be a goldmine for making connections in your area and field of expertise. It’s worth mentioning that many coworking spaces offer activities, events ,and conferences that can help you grow your network and connect with like-minded professionals.
Try to Keep Socially-Beneficial Working Hours
Working as a freelancer can sometimes mean working completely anti-social hours to keep time with your clients on the other side of the globe. However, working late evenings and nights cuts into your prime socialising hours. If you can’t actually leave your home at normal times and meet people, this clearly makes some of the points above obsolete.
If you’re running a freelance business without knowing how to be productive as a freelancer, and practicing self-motivation and discipline, it can be a tough balancing act indeed.
It’s normal to crunch every now and again. Deadlines are deadlines and should be met where reasonable. However, do your best to set up your workday in a way that things are done on time, so that you can still meet your social obligations. Knowing how to be productive as a freelancer can help with this, to avoid time-wasting and allowing you to make the most of your days.
It’s easy to lock yourself in your home office for days on end. Yet working less late nights gives you the opportunity to enjoy some daylight and see some people even just walking on the streets. If you have no choice but to work late, you could try scheduling a short window in your day that’s dedicated to going outside.
Some jobs offer more control over your schedule and lifestyle. As a result, they can help you achieve a healthy work-life balance. This gives you more time and mental capacity to fight loneliness and isolation when working from home. Here you’ll find the best jobs for work life balance and why they’re the best careers to achieve work-life harmony. You need to know, however, that maintaining a work-life harmony is a cycle of continuous re-evaluation and improvement, not a one-off achievement. Keep trying – it’s worth it!
Meet Kindred Spirits Online
Not all socialising has to be done in person! Depending on your niche, there are online groups for all sorts of freelance professions. Look for your own freelance tribes or masterminds.
See if you can find forums, Discord groups, Facebook groups, or subreddits with a focus on your particular niche. I’m a member of several Discord groups in various marketing niches, which are a great way to simply have a chat, or get feedback on your work from like-minded professionals.
To find a relevant Discord group you can use a site like Disboard to search for your niche (“graphic design”, “marketing”, etc.), and it will suggest many options for you to join. You can easily search within Facebook or Reddit to find groups there, or just use Google for a more general search. Connecting with other home-based individuals, freelancers or digital nomads can be emotionally fulfilling and potentially even put you in touch with after-work buddies.
If you prefer something non-work-related, you can try videogames. While you should watch out that you don’t get distracted by them for too long, online games can be a great way to meet people – or simply relax after a hard day’s work.
Get Yourself a Four-Legged Friend
Even if you manage to get out and about while working from home, you may still miss having company around while you work. If you have the time to take care of them, a dog, cat, or many other kinds of pets can make amazing companions for those working from home. You’ll already be home a lot in any case, which will allow you to take good care of them, and the addition of taking them on walks or playing with them will keep you more active and give you a breather.
Of course, a pet can’t be a replacement for a person (although some would argue they’re even better), but they sure can help you feel less anxious and isolated, and get you through your working hours with a more positive mindset.
Pets can reduce stress, anxiety, and loneliness. They can add real joy and unconditional love to your life. However, taking care of any animal is a big responsibility. You should first make an honest assessment of your current organizational and financial possibilities.
Get Your Blood Pumping
I’ve touched upon this a few times throughout this article, but staying active can have a huge impact on your mental health. From going for a jog a couple of times a week, to activities with more people around – such as the gym, sports clubs, dance classes – you have countless choices.
Lack of exercise can also cause a general feeling of apathy which is detrimental to your mental health. Doing regular exercise (even short training sessions or walks) can help lift your mood by releasing endorphins into your brain.
Talk to a Professional
If you feel like nothing is changing for a longer period of time and it’s seriously affecting your life, it’s worth talking to a professional to see if they can get to the bottom of things. Symptoms of a generally low mood may include feeling sad, anxious, panicky, more tired than usual or being unable to sleep, feeling angry, frustrated and low on confidence or self-esteem.
In some cases, it may also be that working from home simply isn’t for you. Just as there are people who thrive on the distraction-free day that freelancing offers, there are plenty of others who need a workspace filled with colleagues and activity to stay sharp.
Overall, the main thing to realise when working from home is that you need to be proactive to avoid these negative feelings. While a workplace forces people together – whether they like it or not – working as a freelancer comes with a few of its own burdens, the primary one of which is the stark independence.
Try not to let things go on for too long, as once you reach a certain point, it becomes increasingly hard to make a change. Kurzgesagt has a great video on loneliness which I’ve added below. It can be eye-opening to see how loneliness can manifest without people being aware of what’s happening.
Working From Home During COVID-19 Pandemic
Many of the above-described points were irrelevant during the Coronavirus pandemic. For instance, working away from home and socializing in-person were either much more difficult or even forbidden for many. However, there are a few general things I can suggest which can help deal with loneliness during mandatory isolation, although they’re likely common sense to most:
- Set up regular phone or video calls with family or friends. If you’re feeling lonely, they probably are too. Especially older relatives who leave their homes rearly will be hugely appreciative of you checking in with them.
- Pick up a new (or old) hobby. Since being stuck at home during Covid-19 restrictions I’ve started plucking away at my guitar after several years of ignoring it, and even if it sounds terrible, it’s incredibly relaxing and helps pass the time when I’m not working. Painting, reading, knitting – there are plenty of things to keep you busy after wraping up your work!
- Pets can be fantastic for your mental health. Many shelters are often overworked and possibly understaffed, so even if you can’t outright adopt an animal, some shelters will allow you to foster one for a few months. You never know, they might end up becoming more than a foster!
- Find an online community with shared interests (click to read a more detailed section above). From work-related groups full of like-minded individuals with whom you can talk business, to online videogames where you can blow off some steam and meet others – we’re incredibly lucky to live at a time when the internet provides us with so many distractions even when we have to stay indoors.
FAQ – Combating Loneliness When Working From Home
As a freelancer, you’re not physically interacting with co-workers and often you spend most of your days alone. That’s why it’s important to stay proactive and seek out interactions, community and social life. Practical ways to deal with loneliness and isolation, such as scheduling your social life, working outside of your home, ir attending events for like-minded people, can help you improve your mental health.