When is Quiet Too Quiet?

If you ask me, I’ll happily tell you I’m an introvert. So will my friends, who don’t see me very often. Working from home is one of the best environments for an introvert seeking a quiet workplace. However, occasionally there are downsides. It can get lonely on occasion, even for people most comfortable working alone.

The primary problem with working from home (for me) is the loss of regular social contact. When I’m on a roll, there’s nothing like uninterrupted time to get things done. But when things slack off, it’s just me in the empty room. Alone-time is fine. Loneliness is a morale killer. It can make you think you need to stay “home alone” all the time and suffer in silence. I’ve learned to do something about this for my own well being.

Call somebody and talk. Just because you’ve left the traditional workplace doesn’t mean you can’t contact your friends or colleagues. I don’t mean call at random and interrupt someone’s day…after all, they’re working too. Or wait until after work hours. But instead of sending an email to ask a question, pick up that smart phone and actually speak to a human being. You might get the answer in less time via text or email, but you miss that essential human contact.

Get out of the house/apartment and be among people. If you’re working from home, it’s probably because you wanted the flexibility of setting your own schedule. It’s time to take advantage of that arrangement and schedule some time to get out and interact with people. It might be as simple as lunch with a friend or family member or going to the grocery store or the book store. And odds are, you have the advantage of flexibility when it comes to time and location because you aren’t locked up in meetings all the time.

Tell people how you’re feeling. That’s what family and friends are for, right? Sometimes it feels better just to get the feelings off your chest. (Note: If your healthcare plan covers mental health and you feel you’re desperate, arrange to talk to a professional.) Your personal care and feeding matter because the same brain you use to write the world’s greatest prose is also the same brain that gets lonely or overwhelmed sometimes. Odds are, if you’re emotionally stressed or depressed, the writing part of your brain isn’t operating at peak efficiency, either.

Seek out partnering opportunities. Just because you’ve lost the resources that come readily with working in an office does not mean that you have lost all ties. As a nontraditional worker, you have the opportunity and the need to create an alternative network to the traditional boss, administrative assistants, subject matter experts, and peer group that come with a typical office day job. For example, I am not particularly artistic when it comes to graphic design. But say I have a project that requires some graphic design help–a brochure, for instance. My customer might or might not have a graphic designer, but if I know someone whose work I trust and (more importantly) someone I like to work with, I can propose his or her services when I bid for the job.

Network. I know: if you’re an introvert reading this, you probably think that networking is a pain. It’s difficult, especially if you’re not particularly good at small talk. However, if you have a hobby (and for gosh sakes, if you don’t, start one), chances are that there’s a gathering for people with similar interests. For me, that’s space exploration, so it’s relatively easy for me to find space-related gatherings. A space conference is the sort of thing I’d attend in my free time even if I wasn’t getting paid for it because the topic interests me. And if you’re in an environment where the content is interesting, you’ll be much more comfortable and likely to chat with people at the event. Having started that conversation, you can gently segue into talking about work.

And here’s the important thing: you don’t ask people point-blank for a job. The more roundabout thing to do is to ask if they know anyone who has work. That allows the person you’re asking to respond, without discomfort, “No, but I will keep my eye open for you” or “No, but I believe So-and-so was looking for a writer.” At which point you can ask for an introduction. But yes, you need to talk to people–how much better is it if you’re talking to people who share a common interest!

Take care of yourself. Yes, it often seems like you’re an “army of one,” but that need not be the case. You have the freedom of movement that comes with a freelance work style. Take advantage of it.

(Additional Note: It occurred to me after I hit the “Publish” button that one might seek help from one’s spouse or significant other. Lacking said spouse or S.O., I wrote this post accordingly. I’ll leave it to others to provide advice on that.  🙂 )

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Directior, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
This entry was posted in freelancing, personal, workplace and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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