By novelist, trainer and journalist, Sue Walker
One of the wonderful upsides of working freelance is that you’re not stuck in the same workplace with the same colleagues day after day (some of whom may well drive you mad!).
But the downside can be isolation: “I’ve spent all day on my own; not talked to a soul; only communicated electronically; ended up talking to the cat!”
Ironically, while advancing technology has made it easier to work ‘remotely’ and to get work in many instances, the downside is that it also means less human contact. This may be a good thing for some! However, many of us are naturally sociable creatures – at least to some extent. So, too much isolation can have several negative connotations including lack of motivation; lack of self-belief; feeling ‘rusty’ and inadequate when we have to meet people and in some cases depression.
What can you do?
Well, there are a number of key areas that we can look at to help address the situation:
If you are gregarious and need to have contact every day (apart from the family and/or the cat) then you will need to think of how best to do that. You might want to plan a small social event into your diary a few times a week such as meeting a friend for coffee. Or, if you want to keep your days strictly for business, break the monotony by doing your research in the library rather that at home/office.
These days, many freelances are recognising the benefits of working with other freelances where they share the same space with 'colleagues', even if it’s just for a couple of days a month. The creative group energy can be a buzz. If you have a work ‘buddy’ that you think you might like to share space with then go for it (for more ideas on this, see our August blog ‘In the Loop’).
If you know that regular contact with ‘the outside’ is important to you, make a point of planning this into your week. We freelances know that we have to work hard and that every minute can be money but building this time into your week could pay its own dividends – you’re investing in your wellbeing and this can help you work more productively.
If you work from home, there are tremendous upsides such as a familiar, comfortable environment, no commuting and tax breaks for the use of your home! But, again, there can be a downside: your home/office can seem like a prison sometimes. When I feel like that I take a few simple steps:
- Work elsewhere for a while
The local library is free and when I can afford it I settle myself in a coffee shop for an hour or two. I find working in different surroundings often inspires fresh creative thinking too. Even working in another part of my home for a few hours and not just my 'office’ helps.
- The ‘N’ word
Networking doesn’t have to be a formal networking event that you have to force yourself to go to. In terms of combating isolation, it can just mean getting out to industry events and talking to people. You’ll also find it useful for picking up industry news and possible work leads.
If you’ve been to one of our FEU Training workshops for example, you’ll know that these provide great networking opportunities. As well as learning, we see people really connecting with each other and feeling so much better for it.
If you do recognize that you’re too isolated, it may seem like an effort to do something about it. However, it’s worth it because just a few small changes can make you feel brighter, more motivated and more creative.
Want to learn more?
FEU Training is running a number of free workshops around the country this year including the themes of combating isolation and confidence building. Look out for updates from FEU Training and your union.