Who Do You Talk To When You Work From Home?

Yesterday I had one of those gushy IM conversations with one of my co-workers about how grateful we are to have each other and our other work BFFs in the office. It went something like:

Me: Thank God we have each other.

Friend: Seriously. Can you imagine if one of us was all alone?

Me: Sad. If there is ever a time we don’t all work here, will you come work out of my living room? Pretty please?

Friend: Tempting. Not the worst idea in the world.

I know, I know. What a lovefest. Gross. But having friends at work is one of the largest contributors to happy employment, and I’ve been realizing this lately more than ever.

Why?

Because two days a week, I’m friendless.

Let me explain. These days, I work in an office only part-time. It’s a three-day-a-week gig. The other two days I work from my apartment, writing and pitching stories and working on my upcoming book. It’s an amazing setup, and I have no complaints. I’m lucky to have been allowed this flexible schedule.

There are some killer perks to working at home (ahem, writing in pajamas ‘til 4), but let me tell you, it can get real quiet in here. When Matt gets home at the end of the day I catch a wretched case of verbal diarrhea. Every thought I’ve had for the last 8ish hours comes pouring out because, give or take a conversation with my mother, I’ve had no social interaction all day. I actually talk to myself sometimes. Okay, a lot. It’s not good.

Lucky for me, after two days of isolation I get three days with my work pals. As one of them once told me “I try to be extra productive on Monday and Tuesday to make up for how much you talk to me on the other three days.” Oops.

But it’s true. After two days at home, I feel like I have so much to catch up on. Their weekends, the missed days in the office, How I Met Your Mother. I mean, there are important things to discuss.

There may come a time when I will work from home full-time. If I have kids one day—as I certainly hope to—I may choose that five-day-a-week writing from my living room provides the flexibility I need. But, woah. What would I do then? Five days of silence but for the hum of the dishwasher? As luxurious as that sounds, the idea of having no co-workers at all—no work besties—is a bit jarring. Who will I IM about the latest Popwatch post?

Having people to talk to during the weekday is necessary. It keeps me sane. My plan, if I do work from home one day, is to turn the living room into an office and force my co-worker friends to work from here. Problem solved.

But, on the off chance that doesn’t work, what do you suggest? Any work from home-ers out there?  Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom, a telecommuter, or a whatever other sweet gig lets you pass on a shower every now and then, you must have a strategy for dealing with the quiet of a home office. Suggestions?

18 Comments

Filed under BFFs and Work

18 responses to “Who Do You Talk To When You Work From Home?

  1. Jeanne Riek

    Working at home so you can be with your children sounds much better than the reality. Once there are children in the house, it will NOT be quiet – ever again. I wish desperately for an office where I could go to think in peace. I would encourage anyone to arrange for some sort of office to escape to. Perhaps a cooperative of work at home parents could share a rented space?

  2. M

    Let me first say that my children are my sun and moon. I also need to point out that going to work makes me a better mother. I am lucky and have a very flexible job that I can stay home or leave early if I need to and on a normal week, work only the hours they are in school. Now that they are both in school, working from home wouldn’t be too bad but when they were younger, it would have been impossible.
    As for work friends. I don’t have any. I work in a small place with only 3 woman employees, one of which only comes in on the weekends and who I never get to see although I love her to death. We do chat during the week through email but it’s not the same. There used to be 2 women here who I loved working with but they both retired and now I’m stuck here every day with a real live version of Linda Blair in The Exorcist. I only stay because my boss is an amazing man and I would never leave him alone with that. I do love my job and what I do, I just don’t like her.

  3. Jenny

    You will call your freelance designer friend, Jenny, and skype in your pajamas together while working from home!🙂

  4. When I was unemployed/job hunting, I definitely talked my husband’s ear off when he came home…I was going crazy with no one to talk to all day. I do like the quiet, but sometimes it gets to be a bit much.

    That said, my current office is not a chatty place, to put it mildly. So it often feels like I might as well be working from home…without the comforts of home. Sigh.

  5. It does get awfully quiet and lonely working from home. That’s been one of the biggest challenges for me! To remedy, I actually plan to go out for lunch a couple days a week, even if it’s just me, and I sit at the counter or bar and chat with the waitress or bartender. Or I have a favorite coffee shop up the street where I’ll tote my laptop and set up a desk for several hours. There are others who do the same, and we randomly chat it up too. Not to mention the friendship I’m developing with the shop owner…

    The other thing to point out is that when you work from home all the time, you’re no longer bound by office hours. Yoga class at lunch time? Sure! A quick trip to Michael’s for some craft supplies? Anytime! Without the distractions of co-workers dropping into chat, when I do get down to work, I WORK. And I find my work is compressed into much smaller amounts of time, leaving me ample room for morning jogs along the lake path, grocery store trips when it’s uncrowded and those little projects I never had time for when I was in a cube farm.

  6. Droplet

    I never gave much thought to missing out on friends by working at home, but now that I have moved to a new state and am still working from home, I am at a loss of how to meet new people. Hence why I’m checking out friendship blogs! But your post made me remember fondly coworkers I have had in the past and to not take them for granted, even though I am usually a reserved person. Like Kelley said above, the schedule can’t be beat: Going to the beach in the middle of the day, an impromptu trip to Ikea. Somewhere along the line I’ll make friends in my new state, but when you are lucky to have coworkers you call friends, that’s a cool thing.

  7. I work from home 2 days a week too (I’m on my couch in my pajamas as we speak!) so I get this. My company would happily let me work from home 100% of the time, and although it’d be nice to avoid my grueling commute to the suburbs all together, I would seriously go crazy if I didn’t go to the office every now and then.

    One thing I always do is force myself to get out of the house for at least an hour when I’m working from home. In nicer weather, I take my dog on really long walks, and we always bump into other dog walkers, so it’s at least somewhat social (though I know how you feel about dogs…). I go to the gym on my lunch break sometimes too, so I’m at least around other people, albeit not really socializing with anyone but the person working the front desk. If our schedules work out, I have lunch dates with a girlfriend who also works from home and totally understands how boring it can be sometimes.

    • I’ll echo Anne’s advice. I’m an office worker now, but I spent two years telecommuting a few years back. Getting out of the house helps a lot. Even if it’s just a walk or a workout (not necessarily social events) it helps you feel less isolated. Lunch dates are also key. Anything you can do to incorporate human interaction into your day (and once you have kids, adult interaction!) will help.

  8. gChat (inside gmail) is your friend.

  9. Once you have those kiddos, a silent room where no one is talking, touching, crying or needing you is a big ol’ blessing. 🙂

    I went from working full time and being the bread winner while my husband finished law school to being a stay at home mom when we joined the Air Force. Holy crap, what a huge adjustment. I was so lonely for grown up conversation. I actually think what you’re doing now would have been a great transition for me–3 days with co-workers and 2 days alone. That’s why I make sure that during the week, I am gone a couple of evenings with grown-ups. I have book club every other Tuesday and a weekly dinner date on Thursdays with my 2 friends and their families. We all meet at one person’s house, take turns cooking, make the kids (6 total between the 3 families) go play in a different room and talktalktalk. Our husbands join us after work and it is absolutely lovely.

  10. Darlene

    Just to play devil’s advocate, it’s possible to be really lonely even when working in an office with other people. Not every corporate culture lends itself to forming friendships. I don’t really have much in common with the people I work with and we don’t talk much. Sometimes I miss the friendly, chatty atmosphere of previous workplaces, but I’ve got to say, I get way more done now.🙂

    I need a quiet, distraction-free environment to work in, so I don’t think working from home would be that much of an adjustment for me, if I ever end up doing that. I think that both working from home and working in a nonsocial office definitely make it more difficult to meet new people, though!

  11. Lorrie Paige

    I know it’s an issue for you personally, but I find this a bit amusing.

    It’s really OK to talk to yourself; afterall you are a friend to yourself too–I hope. I do that alone especially when I’m really excited or intensely thinking about something;. I think that you need to get more comfortable with being alone with you. One of my favorite sayings is: Be your own BFF. This may not help your issue entirely, but will help. It’s not just you though; many people freak out being alone like that.

    I work alone. I’ve been working alone since 1999. For me it’s no big deal at all, and now it would be very weird having people around when I work. I do live with my boyfriend but all during the day, I’m alone and it comes naturally to me. There’s too much going on in my mind and things to do to be lonely. I guess I WAS born a loner–lol! I feel way comfortable with it. Plus, you get more work done being alone. No one to gab to!🙂

    Other posts are great advice as well.

    P.S. You can get a companion animal to keep you company. I’d suggest a dog; they are more companionable.

  12. A.K.

    I’m a stay at home mom living in a small town (about 7,000 people). My husband travels a lot, so during those times I am at home alone or with my kids pretty much 24/7. Sometimes I go for days without speaking to another adult (except for when my husband calls) and it will start to drive me crazy. Getting out and doing something is a good solution. Since I have kids I will take them to the library and chat with the librarians (who I know very well), or even run to the store on a fake errand just be be around other adults. I know it sounds completely pathetic, but that’s the way it is sometimes.

    I’m in the situation right now of trying to make new friends because all of my old friends have moved away for one reason or another. I’ve lived in this small town for seven years and half of the population of the town doesn’t speak English. The majority of the other half have lived here their entire lives and are very cliquish. I did become friends with several of the parents of the my kids’ friends, but for various reasons they have moved away (divorce, job change, etc.). It’s so frustrating to have to start over again, especially when it seems like there is such a small segment of the population in this town open to new friendships.

    Thankfully I do get out once a week to play in a local community band, but haven’t had a chance to make any of those friendships closer because we all commute from opposite ends of several counties to participate. It is hard to plan friend dates with someone who lives an hour and a half away ( they have their own kids, jobs and activities, making it even more difficult). Being the new person (anything under 20 years is new) in a sparsely populated rural area where people have known each other their whole lives really has a down side. I hope we move away from this place soon!

    • Ashley

      A.K . That must be very hard to go days without talking to an adult. I feel for you! If you ever need anyone to get things off your mind you can communicate with me!

  13. Colleen

    Here’s something I’ve found helpful — we use gmail as our corporate email platform (our email addresses say they’re from our domain, but gmail is what’s behind the scenes, and it’s free for smaller businesses), so everyone at our office is basically on gmail. We use Google Chat, which is also free, as our IM platform. And I have a Droid, so it is also Google-based. So when I am working on my computer at home or even just out and about with my phone, I can IM with anyone from the office (even if they are working at home as well). Actually, I can also IM anyone who is on gmail and has accepted my invitation to be on my chat list, so I “chat” with various consultants/friends who are rarely actually in the office at all. Chatting is less formal than emailing, but unlike texting, it pops up on your computer screen. Mostly I use it for bona fide business reasons, but a couple of times a week it will just be a fun and friendly exchange for a few minutes — and it is really fun, somtimes hilarious. The main downside of doing it from home is that I can’t hear my chat-friend’s laughter coming from her office a couple of seconds after she gets my chat! (I hope you don’t mind my mentioning brand names — it might be possible to do the same on other platforms, but I don’t know for sure.)

  14. Megan

    Another question: is working from home better than absolutely not fitting in with your co-workers at all?

  15. I’ve done the verbal diarrhea bit when I worked from home for 2 years.

    But my situation right now is what some of the others have brought up in the comments. I don’t fit in with any clique at work and have no one to talk to! I do spend a lot of time chatting with my sis on IM, but that’s not always possible.

    It’s frustrating and sometimes a little lonely, but I think it also makes me more productive. I just finish work and rush home. On the other hand, I prefer the flexibility of working from home (since I don’t have company either way). Mid mornings are a great time to run errands and avoid the crowds.

  16. Melissa

    I work from home most Friday’s and have found a couple of friends in the neighborhood who also work on Fridays. We try and go out to lunch to “get away” and get rejuvinated at least once a month just to get out of “home”. Now, I love working from home—I get so much done, no distractions, no unannounced “drive by’s”, but I agree…sometimes it gets a little mundane. So its nice to have ‘ladies who lunch” dates to get back in the spirit.:)

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