There are major benefits to running your business from home: You control the environment, the interruptions and even how you interact with others.
But there could come a point when you unknowingly start to lose your social skills. Some home-office businesspeople are noticing they're not interacting with others at all and that their social skills have been compromised as a result.
Years, or even just months, of running a business from home can lead to a sense of disconnectedness
Good business requires you to effectively engage customers, suppliers and service providers. If you're withdrawing into your home-based world, you might be putting your business in danger. So how do you know if you're becoming a home-office hermit, and what should you do about it? Here are some answers.
Is it really a problem?
Few home-based business owners become true hermits—distressingly disheveled and unkempt individuals who live in caves, under bridges, or in extravagant yet inaccessible penthouse hideaways. You're a normal person; you're just busy tending to your business from the comfort and privacy of your home. There's nothing wrong with that.
And you regularly get out of your home to run errands where you're among people, right? You also keep up on current events through the newspaper and the Internet. If hermits are those who have walled themselves off from the outside world, well, that's not you, is it?
The heart of the question, "Are you becoming a hermit?" lies in how you're interacting with others, and, more importantly, how you're feeling about your ability and desire to interact. Years, or even just months, of running a business from home can lead to a sense of disconnectedness. Yes, there is the benefit of freedom from office stress and politics, not to mention those maddening commutes, but if you find yourself feeling withdrawn and even uneasy around others, you might be on your way to becoming a hermit. But don't panic. Take heart, and take action.
Your daily to-do list should include tasks where you interact with others. Start easy by reaching out to friends
Though you may be surprised to find yourself pulling away from others, the good news is you can correct the situation quickly. Here are a few of the quickest ways to get your social on again.
Make a plan: Oftentimes, that feeling of isolation comes from having a day that's too unstructured. Develop a daily plan of what you'll do and when you'll do it (within reason). You'll add structure to your steps and move with a purpose. That's a start.
Schedule interaction: Your daily to-do list should include tasks where you interact with others. Start easy by reaching out to friends for lunch. Join a gym and get to know others who visit at the same time as you. And don't forget to engage professionals or other small-business owners to share business experiences and advice. (You can easily find a network of other business owners and events you can attend by contacting your local Small Business Association.)
Start a collaboration: One of the surest ways to get back into the professional-social world is to work on a shared project. Chances are you need skills and services in your business that you simply don't have; find someone who does and work together. Keep that original plan in mind to ensure this partnering doesn't become simply social all the time. Collaboration usually paves the way to forming contacts and widening your network to bring you back into working with others regularly.
Just because you're working from a home office doesn't mean you can't return to the five-day-a-week schedule that made Fridays special
Use technology wisely: It would be foolish to suggest you turn away from technology just because it is a key culprit to people withdrawing from each other. Technology can help restore your relations with others if you use it appropriately.
Use your cell phone to actually talk to someone rather than text. Take it one step further with a video app like Skype or Google Hangouts and see the person you're talking to. Use these digital tools to bridge geographic spans instead of letting it trap you in a tech bubble. Otherwise, you'll wind up back in the isolation you're working so hard to free yourself from.
Host your own recurring social event: Remember how you used to go out bowling or for drinks and appetizers on Fridays after work? Do that again. Just because you're working from a home office doesn't mean you can't return to the five-day-a-week schedule that made Fridays special. It may sound like you're going back to the grind you escaped, but with a bit of home-based experience on your hands, you'll find that there are good elements to that routine. Call up your network of friends, collaborators and associates, and get that end-of-week celebration going again.
Balance is the key
As great as it is to work and earn an income from home, there's no denying that it is a change and one that affects industrious business owners in different ways. Your best bet is to explore this opportunity if it presents itself to you, then enjoy the freedom of being your own boss, setting your own hours and working exactly the way you want to work.
Just bear in mind that if you get those feelings of withdrawal or isolation, then it's time to add some balance to your situation. Get social in the real world and keep yourself from becoming a recluse. You'll still be running your business your way and, best of all, you'll be interacting with others who will surely be interested in learning the secret of your success.
Other Entries by this Author
Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay…and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues.
Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.