So you’ve left your corporate life for the excitement of pursuing an entrepreneurial journey. No more commuting, endless meetings, suffocating hierarchy and lack of control over your working life. Technology affords us so many possibilities, that running a successful business with no formal premises supported by a team of remote workers is perfectly possible.
For instance, the automation software company, Zapier has over 250 people working remotely from more than 24 countries, with no physical headquarters. Running our own show gives us the opportunity to be in control of our working day and to build businesses which meet our personal and professional goals. Whether your vision is to spend more time with your family or to travel the world with a laptop, the opportunities are endless.
However, developing a personal brand throws up different challenges than those faced in corporate life and one of the most crippling, if not tackled head-on, is isolation.
Social interactions and happiness
As someone who has worked from my home office for over 20 years, having had a very sociable career in banking, I have experienced times when the solitude has become overwhelming and where the lure of chatter at the water-cooler nearly drew me back in. Even the most introvert of us needs company at some point in the working week and more extrovert characters probably seek out some form of social interaction daily.
Human beings by nature are social beings. Psychiatrist Robert Waldinger in his TED talk summarising the main conclusions of 80 years of the Harvard Study of Adult Development concluded that social connection is crucial to our wellbeing and happiness. Unsurprisingly, working alone can make you feel miserable particularly when things are not going to plan.
Clearly there are some professions where isolation is more prevalent; for example, writing and editing, software and website development, artists and designers. This is heightened when you not only work but live alone. Unsurprisingly the four walls begin to close in on you when you realise the only interaction you’ve had with a living being is on social media or a chat with the cat!
Isolation and Mental Health
In an article written by Dr Mark Winwood, Director of Psychological Services at AXA PPP healthcare for IPSE (The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed Limited, a UK-based trade association) he cites isolation as the leading cause of mental health problems.
The consequences of long-term isolation, if left unresolved, include:
- Increase stress levels which leads to anxiety and sleep problems
- Lack of access to beneficial feedback from co-workers which provides motivation
- The tendency to become distracted reducing productivity
- Over-reliance on social media as a substitute for real human interaction
- Increased procrastination
- Lack of confidence
- Difficulty innovating
- Imposter syndrome potentially leading to small fish syndrome
10 ways to overcome isolation as an entrepreneur
Stem the tide of loneliness by implementing these ten approaches to a more connected working day.
1. Have a plan
When you have a written plan, with a roadmap for achieving your goals, working on your own becomes so much easier. Simply waking up and ‘winging it’ is a recipe for feeling out of control making progress more difficult.
Schedule breaks and make them part of your day. Arrange to meet a friend for a coffee or lunch, walk around the park or go for a swim. Combining exercise with your social time is a double whammy – healthy in body and mind.
2. Get out of the house first thing
Whether it’s to buy a newspaper or a walk around the block, unless you’re walking alone in the countryside, getting out first thing means you get your hit of social interaction first thing. If you have children, a conversation at the school gate may just set you up for a whole day of working alone at home.
3. Work in company
For the price of a coffee, you can work in a local cafe, museum or bookshop as long as you can concentrate whilst the world goes on around you. I tend to do admin or other repetitive tasks which I can successfully do on autopilot. You might find that a hotel lobby is quieter.
4. Join a networking group
If you are new to working from home, networking is a great way of meeting other entrepreneurs. It’s an opportunity to spend a couple of hours in the company of others, learn new business skills, find suppliers and even win new business.
5. Visit a coworking space
Office rental companies, such as WeWork and Regus, are dedicating section of their buildings to coworking lounges or hot desks. WeWork is one of the fastest-growing companies offering inspiring spaces in cities across the world. For a low entry point these companies provide a desk which can be rented on an hourly, daily or monthly basis.
6. Set up your own coworking event
Started in Sweden, Hoffice combines the word ‘home' and ‘office' together and refers to regular, private coworking in peoples’ homes. I run a monthly Hoffice and have half a dozen local homepreneurs come for a day of focused work and this really helps with working from home isolation.
Read more about Hoffice here.
7. Reengineer your day
Give yourself a guilt-free break in the middle of the day to exercise or take a weekly class. It might go against the grain to be leaving the office in the middle of the day and feels a bit like skiving, but flexibility is just one of the many reasons people leave the 9 to 5. After a few weeks of regular attendance, you’ll adapt to your new timetable.
8. Find an accountability partner
Find someone in a similar situation to yourself and have a regular online meeting over Skype or Zoom. If you’re working on a particular project you can be accountable to them for reaching your targets. Once again, it’s that regular human contact which is important.
9. Avoid the social media rabbit-hole
Although we might use social media to promote our business, it can be a double-edged sword which can make us feel despondent especially when everyone else’s posts present a ‘perfect life’. As entrepreneurs there will be tough times – times of indecision, situations which throw us off track, dead ends. Overlay these challenges with social media newsfeeds full of images of so-called ‘success’ and your optimistic vision can turn to one of despair.
The solution is to remove social media apps from your phone and to use a website and app blocker, such as Freedom to give you control over your time and to increase productivity.
10. Spice up your social life
Isolation can be a serious issue if you live and work on your own. Balance the time spent at home during the working day with a sociable personal life. Your friends in the corporate world may be happy to slump in front of the TV at the end of the day, so consider taking up a new sport or pastime in the company of others. If you’re new to an area, take a look at Meetup for a diverse calendar of events in your area.
Finally, celebrate your progress on the entrepreneurial path. Look back at where you started and take pride in each achievement, however small. After all, progress is made not in one big leap but step by step.Isolation can be a serious issue if you live and work on your own. Balance the time spent at home during the working day with a sociable personal life. #Youpreneur Click To Tweet
Amanda Brown is a business consultant, author of ‘Homepreneur’ and founder of the Business Focus Academy online training programme and creator of online productivity courses. She combines an analytical approach to helping her clients with a love of words.