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How do you stay connected when you work from home?

By December 30, 2008 - 10:36am
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In the last two years, I have. I’ve fallen out of touch with a couple of people who are really important to me.

I know that sounds backwards. If they were that important, I would make them a priority, right? I wouldn’t let them go by the wayside if I really cared for them.

But it’s easier than it sounds. There was no fight, no falling out. In fact, there is a lot of love and affection that goes both ways. But it still happened.

I used to work in an office, where email was a way of life. It was easy to steal moments here and there and keep up with friends on email, writing interesting notes, asking about their families, sending along funny experiences, keeping involved in their lives. We were tied to our computers all day, so it was no big deal – our work always got done as well. A note in my box from a friend would usually take precedence over a work email, for sheer interest alone. (Note to former employer: Go easy on me! We all do it!)

Also, in an office, there are incidental exchanges that keep a relationship going. You see someone at the soda machine, you see people in meetings, you get the news of the day, you find out that someone’s engaged, someone’s pregnant, someone’s divorcing. You pick up the vibes in the office and know whether it’s a good or bad day. You are in touch with things, almost without effort.

There’s also this thing in the work world called “lunch.” It often involves food, sometimes a noon exercise class. But it also is a really useful tool for keeping up with people – in an hour you can get caught up with each other’s work and personal lives while doing something you’d do anyway – eat.

Since I’ve worked at home, I find it harder to keep up in all these ways. When my work on the computer is done, I’m not tied to it, so I find other things I want to do, and the email box gets ignored until “later” (and you guessed it, “later” rarely comes). Lunch tends to be something out of the frig. And my work buddies consist of Jesse, Gidget, Shelby, Molly and Max – three collies and two Maine coons. They’re sweet, but they don’t keep up their side of the office conversation.

It’s important to me to reconnect, so I’m going to try to do better at this. Which leads me to my question: If you work at home, how do you stay in touch with the world? How do you connect with friends? And is it as easy as it was if you used to work outside the home?

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Great question!

I spent several years working from home and really appreciated the opportunity to be with my kids while they were going through the difficult middle to high school years. Working for major software companies where WFH was a way of life was also very opportune, allowing me to continue to develop skills in my second career (I used to be an investment banker) and still have a normal life.

Staying connected with other folks, not counting the umpteen weekly web meetings or conference calls, was a matter of a group of us meeting at the office a couple of times per week, or getting together at a coffee shop where we could get free wi-fi and a decent meal while working on a project.

The downside for me was that the majority of my social connection was work-related, the nature of the beast, I suppose. Even the fun chats online were work-related, as I worked part-time in the evenings for another online community and had a large team to manage. I am on Twitter and a couple of other social networking sites where some colleagues and I can stay in touch. But, I'm really bad about updating my stuff, lol!

I've always felt a bit disconnected from the rest of the world around here, largely because I live so far from town. Nonetheless, I do miss working from home and haven't really totally made the mental, let alone physical, adjustment to commuting to the client site at the crack of dawn. I also find that I get less done on site, as I tend to work much more efficiently and quickly at home. Go figure. :))

December 30, 2008 - 5:23pm

I think staying connected when working from home is a matter of quality vs. quantity! In a physical office, you do have the opportunity to talk with a lot more people, but it depends on the environment. I've worked in offices where the workers do not want to get together during lunch or after work...they are purposefully trying to get away with work (and all things, and people, associated with it!). Just being in the office, however, does lend itself to talking with more people in a "quantity" statement.

However, working from home, provides the opportunity for more quality relationships. You can choose to keep in touch with those people who bring you joy and laughter in your life, and keep out the people who are "always" in bad mood or are just altogether toxic. (I've talked about my experience dealing with a bully that I worked with!). I find it enjoyable to work when I want to work, and put my attention into my projects....then, when I want to talk with someone on the phone, send a thoughtful email or meet them for coffee/lunch/drink, then I can focus 100% of my attention on our conversation (and not pretend to be working!).

I have also tried the social networking thing, but it still seems more impersonal to me. I'm old!

December 30, 2008 - 2:14pm

A friend of mine owns her own business and works from home. As a rule, she meets someone for lunch at least once a week, whether it's a friend or a client. And instead of a phone call, she sometimes opts to meet at a coffee shop to help her feel connected. She really enjoys the face-to-face conversation, although she swears she couldn't go back to an office.

Another friend who works from home uses social networking (think Facebook) to stay in touch. It not only keeps him up on what his colleagues are up to but he's even connected with old friends. Have you tried a social networking site?

December 30, 2008 - 11:22am
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