Over the last 6 years, I have spent a significant amount of time working alone at home.
Though I enjoy working alone, I appreciate it’s not for everyone. Just like any other work arrangement, it has its pros and cons.
If your preference is to be surrounded by work colleagues and you thrive working in a team environment, you might struggle working on your own all day.
If you are thinking about a career move which takes you from a busy office to working alone, here are some questions to ask yourself?
Will you get lonely?
We are all social creatures – but some people like (or more to the point need) to have other people around them.
Not everyone goes well working alone. Without having colleagues to bounce ideas off or someone to chat to while grabbing a coffee in the office kitchen, some people may feel isolated and struggle with feelings of loneliness. When you work alone a support network is vital. Though you may not have people sitting next to you during the day, you can still have people on your team.
Coaches and mentors can offer excellent means of support from a business perspective. Also reach out to close friends and family. Bear in mind, personal calls and emails need to be monitored during working hours. While reaching out to connect with people is good, being late for a deadline because you were chatting to a friend is not.
Communicate/connect with other people in your field either in person or online. For writers – join or create a local writers group and meet regularly. Join online forums in your field.
Communicate via social media (Facebook, Twitter etc). Most likely you will use these forums for business as well as personal. Of course it’s important to invest your time wisely. You don’t want to spend all day reaching out to people on social media but not get any work done.
If you are going to spend all day working alone, I’d definitely recommend having a pet. Pets are known for helping to relieve stress. In my case, it’s a stray cat who I adopted (truth is he adopted me and you can read about it here). Whenever I am feeling stressed, frustrated or I simply need to lift my spirits, I spend time with him and instantly feel better.
Make sure you get out of the house. From a writing perspective, if you are writing about what’s happening in the world, it certainly helps if you actually get out in it once in a while. Make sure you still have a social life (particularly when you are starting out and working hard to try to establish yourself). Find a healthy balance between being social and working alone.
Will you be able to make important decisions?
Working alone might mean you are your own boss. Becoming the boss means making all of the decisions yourself. Yes, even the really hard ones.
Whilst this may be easy for people who are already the decision makers in their workplace, for others it can present more of a challenge.
Becoming a better decision maker is something I am working on. Sometimes assistants don’t have a lot of decision-making power. Naturally this depends on the person, their role and the company they work for.
Not only is it making a decision, many of which will have significant impacts on your finances as well as your productivity, it’s a matter of making a quick decision.
As one of my close friends working in finance advised, when it comes to making decisions – it’s all about practice. The more decisions you make, the better you get at making them – sort of like exercising and building a muscle.
Will you cope without an IT help desk?
Personally I find this one the hardest whenever I am working from home. Technology is not exactly my forte.
Running a website/blog has been challenging from a technical standpoint. Working for a big company, if I had a problem with my computer, it was simply a matter of calling one of the guys on the help desk to assist me.
At home there is no help desk.
Whilst I am lucky to have a friend in IT who gave me a tremendous amount of help purchasing and setting up my new laptop, there is still the challenge of dealing with technology issues on a day-to-day basis.
While there are online forums and companies offering online support, often it’s a matter of wading through a sea of information to find what you are looking for. Some sites can be very helpful, others merely frustrating time wasters and some have completely incorrect or outdated information.
Working alone is both challenging and exciting. How do you think you would cope?
If you are working alone from home, I would love to hear from you on how you find the experience.
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