Where Is Your Community?

As a freelance consultant, I spend my days in front of a computer occasionally shifting around the house to the couch, kitchen table, or porch when I need a change of scenery from my home office. I have a kitchen instead of a lunch room, a phone instead of a conference room, and no water cooler in sight. While the solitary web worker life can get lonely occasionally, most of us have found ways to engage with communities of our peers in less traditional ways outside of an office.

There have been many posts about engaging with coworkers and clients via Twitter, IM, Facebook, and other social networking sites. Those are a great first step to keep in touch with real people throughout the day, but what about those times when you just need to get out of the house?

I’m lucky to live here in Portland where we have a large number of freelancers, consultants, telecommuters, and other remote workers. We frequently get together during the week for coworking sessions at coffee shops where we each work independently, but by meeting in groups, we have people to watch our computers when we go to the bathroom, share quick stories, or get feedback on a tough issue. There are a few coffee shops where my web worker friends regularly congregate, and I can almost guarantee that I’ll see someone I know wander in during my visit.

If you aren’t lucky enough to have something similar already, consider scheduling it. How about coffee shop Wednesday? Pick a few friends who are also busy and who know that the purpose of the day is work (not chatting), and then find a place with solid wireless and caffeinated beverages. I typically save up those tasks that don’t require extensive concentration (responding to email, proposals, contracts, etc.), since you might not do your best strategic recommendations with the distractions of a coffee shop.

Beer and Blog Geek Meetups
Beer and Blog Geek Meetups

photo used with permission from Aaron Hockley.

I also rely on attending regular events where I can interact with people who have similar technology interests. In some cases, I attend events that already exist. Here in Portland, we have events like Beer and Blog, Portland Web Innovators, and many user groups. I also noticed a few gaps, which I filled by working with other people to help start new groups like the Online Community Manager Meetup and PDX GeekChix. Attending existing events and starting new ones is a great way to meet new people and increase your interactions with other human beings offline.

What do you do when you crave human interaction during the work day?