When I relocated from Surrey to north Norfolk five years ago, the magazine I was working on allowed me to keep my job but work remotely. I’d never really considered home working before but it struck me as a rather nice way of life. I loved everything about my job, especially my co-workers, so was glad that I wasn’t leaving the company. We were a small team of young women with similar interests and, while we worked hard, we had a good laugh in the office and saw each other socially once or twice a week.
I was excited about setting up my home office in the spare bedroom of our new house and for the first couple of months everything was great. I spoke to colleagues as often as I could over the telephone but soon found it wasn’t the same as exchanging banter across an office and I now lived too far away to join in their social plans. I worked the same long hours and began to notice that aside from walking the dog at lunchtime I rarely left the house. The village we lived in seemed nice but I didn’t know anyone who lived locally and had no opportunity to make new friends.
Very soon I began to feel cut off and when my elderly dog eventually passed away I had little reason to leave the house at all. I was miserable, lonely and lacking in motivation.
This all changed when I was offered some desk space in my husband’s office. The managing director had been a friend of ours for years and was happy for me to set myself up in the corner. Suddenly it was like the sun had come out from behind a cloud. Once again I was included in a tea-making rota and got to join in ‘water cooler chat’ despite my co-workers’ line of business being completely different to mine. I thrived and my work production increased as a result.
I then became pregnant and when my daughter was a year old I left full time employment in favour of freelancing. This greater flexibility meant that I didn’t need to be sat at my desk all day.
My daughter is now at pre-school three mornings a week and I actually look forward to the solitude and silence of working in the house on my own these days! However, I know that when she starts school I’ll be rethinking my working arrangements once again and probably looking for new co-workers.
Many jobs these days involve a laptop computer and little else so you can be completely portable and flexible. The great thing about co-working or office sharing is that you get to enjoy human company and all the buzz of a busy office without any of the politics that come with working for the same business. In fact, sharing with people from different occupations could bring the benefits of different viewpoints and you might be able to exchange skillsets. By being visible in a shared office and getting to know other professionals you are also likely to increase your chances of finding work.
If you don’t know of any other homeworkers, you might be able to find local desk spaces through the official co-working wiki at http://coworking.pbworks.com. The website also has a lot of useful information and links for people interested in trying out co-working.
Before Christmas a friend of mine, who runs her own cake business, was lamenting the fact that now she is self-employed she no longer gets to enjoy a work Christmas meal. We decided that next year we’ll get together with other self-employed friends and have a party of our own, celebrating the freedom and flexibility of working for yourself.
If you are a naturally sociable person who thrives on company it is definitely worth considering co-working or office sharing to save your sanity.