In her Telegraph London article, author Jane Green wrote about how working from home made her feel isolated and lonely. “I was not seeking running clubs or romance, but drinks after work started to sound excellent, as did a shared lunch or two. I wanted to discuss the finale of Big Little Lies at the water cooler; I wanted to have a routine; to step out of the lonely work/life bubble I had created for myself and be in the world again.” (July 2017).
This is so common. A few months back I was at a female networking group of about 20 businesswomen. One of the attendees – an intelligent professional psychologist actually – was lamenting the relentlessness of business development, but she also shed real tears over how she felt so alone in her business. We all felt for her and many others around the table could empathise through their own situations.
We all crave human interaction, especially the ones where ‘we get’ each other or likeminded connections. It’s something that we tend to underestimate when we dream of no longer being an employee and working for ourselves. The prospect of flexibility and freedom is so intoxicating we don’t realise how much we’ll miss sharing the highs and lows with people in the same boat. The pats on the back from those in our field we respect. Collaborating over a mutual agenda. The laughs over the coffee machine about a stupid TV show. Even a shared eye roll with a colleague over the office clown is an enjoyable moment. It can be strangely comforting in odd ways.
It’s not always this way and it’s something the social marketing industry does well. In fact the Direct Selling Association of Australia has stated one of the top three reasons people join the industry was due to the strong sense of community.
Essentially you’re in business for yourself but you’re not by yourself. There’s no shortage of people in the same shoes to share the roadblocks with, cheer you on, offer inspiration or provide a sounding board. When you’re surrounded by others who understand from the inside, as opposed to the outside, it’s validating, energising and helps to keep your perspective when needed. I didn’t understand how important this would be when I started my own business but I couldn’t do without it. And I’m an introvert! How on earth do the extroverts cope?
If you’re thinking about branching out on your own, factor your own need for human connection into the equation. Think about where your joy comes from in case you need to prepare yourself for this often-underestimated aspect of treading your own path. There are creative ways around it, such as co-work spaces, networking/support groups, and Facebook support groups to name a few. So long as you remember you’re only human. People need people.