Working from a home office, Wow! The freedom you feel not having a demanding boss constantly breathing down your neck.  Not having to ask permission to attend a one-hour first grade show for your child and being forced to waste a vacation day (yes, this actually happened to me in corporate).  I was thrilled to finally be an entrepreneur, working from my home office, not being obligated to go into a corporate headquarters.  “I am self-motivated, I know what I need to get done, and I can do what I want when I want,” I told myself.  After a while, though, I did start missing the human interaction.   If you are a very social person, sometimes working from a home office can feel lonely and isolating even though so it is so much better than wasting time and energy commuting to and from an outside office each day.

Here are some ways I have counteracted that feeling over the years, to become happier and more productive working from home:

  1. Assess your personal energy level and schedule tasks to match your energy: My most high energy daypart is in the morning, then I have a dip in energy after lunch, and am revitalized at 4 pm.  As I mentioned in Blog #13 I attack my most daunting tasks first thing in the morning, in accordance with Brian Tracy’s advice in Eat That Frog*.  Then in mid-afternoon I do accounting and administrative tasks, which are easy for me, while listening to Pandora on my computer.  When I get my second wind, I go back to tasks that take more energy and know I will effectively crank through them.
  2. Take breaks every 60-90 minutes and give yourself a short social interaction: This tactic combines the ideas from the High Performance Pyramid (Blog #5) with giving yourself a small reward for focusing and achieving a goal over a concentrated period of time.  People who need social interaction can view this as a welcome break.  I was fortunate enough to have my best friend start a marketing consulting business from home around the same time I moved One Horn to my home office, and the brief (and sometimes not so brief) calls we would have several days a week re-energized both of us and strengthened our friendship.  For others, taking a timed, five-minute Social media break to check in could satisfy the need for social interaction.
  3. Find an accountability partner: During my time as a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO), I had an accountability partner with whom I met to discuss my business goals and to whom I had to regularly report my progress.  Writing the goals down and then telling another person about them made me feel even more energized when I achieved my goals.  And the social interaction made me feel less alone. At One Horn, we have a couple of sets of agents who talk on a daily basis to help each other stay focused on their goals.
  4. Schedule time to call shippers instead of just emailing them: This is a great way to kill two birds with one stone, you get that social interaction you crave, while building rapport and keeping yourself top-of-mind with your shippers.  I enjoyed some very good relationships with shippers, getting to know them on a personal level, talking about family, sports, and non-transportation concerns while I was in the sales side of the business.  I genuinely enjoyed having a more friendly relationship with them, and from the way I was greeted on the phone, I think they enjoyed it too.
  5. Plan a lunch out or over the phone every week: Sometimes Fridays are slower days, so if you are able to get out to lunch with a customer or networking contact to share ideas in a different atmosphere, it can give you something to look forward to as well as help you improve your business.  If you can’t leave your office, go for the huddle over the phone.  In Verne Harnish’s book The Rockefeller Habits*, Harnish has this concept of weekly “huddles” with key employees or the whole team.  Every Monday, I have a huddle scheduled with our Senior Logistics Manager who oversees our agents.  She is in her office in NY, and I am in my office in NJ, we eat lunch and talk about how we can help our agents prosper and what she needs from me to help her grow in her position.  We both enjoy each other’s company, so it is a fun way to get that social interaction while also achieving business objectives.
  6. Plan the next day at the end of every day: Schedule your dayparts as mentioned in #1 to match your energy levels, and schedule your social contact breaks every 60-90 minutes so you have something to look forward to.  If you can look forward to planned social interactions interspersed throughout your day, you can maintain your energy level and be happier while working, knowing you will have that much-needed social contact as well.

I have used these tactics to overcome feelings of isolation while working from my home office, so I hope they help you, too.  In my next blog, I will provide you with tips on how to make the connection before you connect with a sales prospect or a social networking contact.

– By Cheryl Biron, President

* Click through for full references on books that inspired us: