In a previous column, I wrote about the rewards and challenges of working from home with the kids running in and out, dogs, cat and all of the nuances of having a home in your office and your office in a home. I touched briefly on the loneliness factor. Loneliness is probably one of the biggest obstacles home based agents face–especially me. I am a very social person. Anyone that has ever met me knows how much I like to socialize. Hey, I wasn’t named social chairperson in my sorority for being a wallflower. It’s in my DNA. Being social to me is like breathing. I talk to anyone from taxi drivers, to people in airports. I am sure my seat mates on planes love me—but they may have a different take on that. Although, I have learned to keep quiet when I have to–it’s like gagging Chatty Cathy. As fate would have it, I am married to my polar opposite. At the end of the day my husband just wants to chill out, and I want to run on about my day and my clients the moment he comes in the door. No wonder the poor guy bolts for his “man cave.”
While working from home is great and has its rewards (especially when it is frigid outside), the lack of interaction with others can drive many an agent including me bananas. So, how do I keep sane? When I first stated, I worked for a local agency and I had an office to go to when things got really bad. That kept me in the loop and I was able to meet with suppliers and take care of other chores while there. When I switched to a host in a different city, I lost that perk. I find that the worst time of the year is in winter when the sun doesn’t shine and the bitter winds keep it very cold. My energy level is at zero and I bang my head on my desk. It’s really hard booking vacations for people to sunny, warm spots when you are working in a gray, overcast, cold, sleeting town. All I think about is I need to find the sun. To cope, I joined a networking group that has pretty stringent rules and requirements on attendance. You are only allowed to miss three meetings per quarter. To some that may sound extreme but in order to network effectively, you have to physically be there. When you are out of sight, your’re out of mind. In my case, it forces me out of the house. Without that rule I would slough off the meetings and sit in my PJs all morning. I am also in another weekly luncheon group where I am with adults, have good conversation, and can network. When things get really lonely I pack up my laptop and go sit in a coffee shop and sometimes I just might make a connection.
So, that’s how I cope with the occasional boredom of working from home. Get out of the house. Join a networking group, your Chamber of Commerce or sit in a coffee shop. Phone a friend to have lunch. Meet with suppliers. Meet with potential clients for coffee or lunch. Take a walk. And take a clue from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and have a lifeline. A friend who also works from home is an ideal candidate for commiseration–call, email, or instant message. Better yet, join an online community such as the TRO forums and have your own virtual watercooler.
Remember, it is OK to get out of the office and play hookie every now and then. Call it a sanity break. Join a gym and schedule regular work out times. I work out early in the morning. Not only do the endorphins make me happy all day long I don’t need a “wide load” sign on my derriere. As an added bonus you make friends. Run errands, go shopping or do your banking. My bank just loves me I am their cheap entertainment for the day. If you have pets, let the dog and cat hang out with you. Charlie Brown said, “happiness is a warm puppy.” In my case it’s a warm puppy and soft kitty curled up at your feet while you slave away. Finally, remember why you love travel. Keep your passion. It will keep you going.
Mary Stephan is the President of Allons Travel based in Powell, OH. For more information, you can contact Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org.