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How I Beat the Remote Working Blues

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lillonelyAre you having a good day today? Remote working can be great, but it can also prove a lonely proposition; some days it can seem like you never leave the house, or as if no one knows or cares whether you’re working or not. For many, remote working actually means remote: The workplace of your employer is hours away; friends and/or other colleagues aren’t much closer. And sometimes it can seem as if the people who are supposed to be working with you are too busy with what’s going on in the office to actually give you what you need to do your job.

That sense of disconnection can be significant, it can be cruel, and it can be very difficult to overcome. If you’ve never had a day like this, lucky you! I’ve had my fair share, and though I’m no psychologist, I thought I’d outline my tactics for shaking off the remote working blues, just in case you ever face the same problem.

Remain Calm

Don’t hit the panic button just because you’re feeling the twin tyrannies of distance and solitude. You’re competent, capable and like everyone else, you suffer the occasional bad day. It’s cool. The fact that you may hate working remotely right now doesn’t mean you’re losing your remote working mojo — not at all! It just means you’re human.

Speak to Someone

I always find a bad day is most swiftly cut down to size if I tell someone about it. IM your best friend and let loose about how annoying it is trying to work with that guy in Marketing who never gives you the information he’s supposed to. Or call your brother and see if he wants to catch up on the weekend.

It may not matter who you get in touch with — usually I find that chatting with someone about something expands my horizons enough to remind me that I really am part of the world after all. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking everyone’s too busy to be distracted by you, either. Those closest will always have time for you, and if they don’t right now, they’ll call you back as soon as they do.

Immerse Yourself

Typically, my bad day is accompanied by a serious lack of motivation. One technique I use to overcome that is to try to immerse myself in an aspect of my job that I really enjoy. So I’ll look at my task list and pick the thing I want to do most, or what looks like it’ll be the most fun. This is a good way to remind myself of what I like about work, and gives me a sense of purpose.

If there’s nothing on your task list that you really want to do, some fresh air and a stroll around the block might make things look a little less bleak.

Arrange a Day in the Office

This may not be appropriate, or even possible, for everyone. But I find that, if I’ve been feeling isolated from work for a while, the promise of a day in the office — to reconnect with colleagues, make progress on particular projects that have hit hurdles, and remind myself how much I hate commuting — can perk me up. If you have friends in (or near) the office, you might even arrange to have lunch with them. You might as well make the most of your time on site!

I know a freelancer who, when he starts to feel isolated at home, either goes to a friend’s studio to work there for the day, or arranges a few client meetings so he has a reason to get out of the house and into the big, wide world. Do you have a cool friend with their own office, or a few clients with whom you could meet?

Be Kind to Yourself

I think the secret to getting through a bad day really lies in being kind to yourself. If I dread sitting down at my solitary old desk and starting my lonely old work, I’ll put on some good music, or take the laptop out to the deck (and the sunshine!) for a while. Perhaps I’ll treat myself to my favorite snack, call a friend to arrange to meet up later, go for a run, or spend a half hour looking at a book, magazine or site that really inspires me. These small indulgences usually make me feel pretty good, and, coupled with some of the points I mentioned above, can help me approach a mindset in which I can face up to the rest of the work day.

I know I’m not the only one to suffer the remote working blues. What do you do when they hit you?

13 Responses to “How I Beat the Remote Working Blues”

  1. Good article. thanks!
    While working internationally, often times the difference in time zones may even cause close friends relatives to react weirdly. Of course, waking someone up at 2am isn’t like catching them at their best. But this takes getting used too.
    Running seemed to help me a lot, and I even went up to complete a half-marathon and more on the side.

  2. Bob Iliff

    Well, posting a comment on a blog about the loneliness of web working can help. But I think you have to be careful thinking a trip to the office will cure all. It can make things worse if your expectations are to re-charge. I think spending half an hour creating a new business idea is a therapeutic diversion that soothes because it helps you see the possibilities, and also the pitfalls of doing something radically different.

  3. I actually started going back into the office after 6 months of working from home. I felt too disconnected and started to get cabin fever. It’s not as easy as everyone thinks

  4. In my experience, the best remedy for the working-remotely-is-so-lonely days is to head back to the office for a couple of weeks. I usually work internationally, but I’m home now, and it’s amazing how going into the office disrupts my workflow. Turns out, I really value the silence that happens without ringing office phones, and I miss the extra sleep that is currently wasted on the shower/get presentable routine. (and I love working in my PJs)

  5. Michele

    I work remote in Florida with the Corporate office in PA. Not exactly within driving distance to spend a day in the office. So, basically, I get out at lunch time and go for 10 min walks when I need a break.

  6. @Palvo: Coworking is a great idea if you are lucky enough to find yourself close to other remote workers. Beer helps.

    Personally, I’ve been working on these issues for a few months. I have been remote since Oct 2008 and have been really busy with quite a few projects until now. My workload is decreasing a bit now and the challenge for me will be finding other outlets for my energy.

    I have started working out more: ran my first and second triathlon in March, have another coming up in September.

    I’ve also thought about finding a local part time job that would get me out of the house. Something simple and only a few hours a week. Or volunteering on a regular basis.

    Eric H. Doss