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Working Remotely: Managing Solitude

This series on “Working Remotely” is inspired by “Remote,” the book by the 37Signals guys, and by my own experience working remotely for many years.
Working remotely has many benefits as we’ve discussed in this series. It can also be lonely. If you’re working from home, it’s you, the computer and the four walls.
Contrast that with being surrounded by people on your commute to and from work, drop-bys and lunch with co-workers, and meetings with clients and visitors.
But, it doesn’t have to be lonely. Here are a few tips to stay engaged and keep loneliness at bay while maintaining the kind of productivity that makes working away from the office appealing.
Vary your workspace – Working remotely doesn’t mean just working from home. “Home” can be a co-working space, coffee shop, or the library. We’ll discuss workspace options later in the series, but try to vary your home office a few times a week, even if it’s only for a couple hours at a time.
Get a pet – Dogs are a man’s best friend and work-at-homers can use a friend that is present and available. If you’ve been thinking about getting a dog or cat, or some other pet, now’s a good time to take the plunge. If you can’t, work occasionally from a friend’s house or apartment who has a pet. You’ll benefit (2 for 1: vary your workspace and get a pet), your friend will be grateful, and the dog will love you. Win-win-win. I do this at least once a week.
Go out for breaks and lunch – It’s easy to keep going when you get into a groove or have a deadline-looming project. Stop. Take breaks. It’ll increase your productivity and your work will not become a pain in the neck. But, don’t surf the web during breaks and lunch. Go outside: throw the ball around with your kids, walk the dog, take a stroll around the block. Disconnect and try to be around other people during lunch. Remember to get out of your jammies and into regular clothes at the start of each day. You’ll be less likely to stay indoors.
Music helpsMusic has a powerful relationship to our primal need of connecting with others. Listening to music while working even increases productivity and creativity. Create playlists on Spotify or use an app like Songza.

Social Networks – This is a tricky one. On one hand, Facebook and Twitter can be your water cooler – a way to interact, catch up with gossip, and share with others. On the other, it can quickly devolve into a huge time-suck. Do hop on and engage, but tread carefully.
Messenger app open to chat with co-workers – Conversations – on the phone, messaging via Skype or Google Hangouts, or screen shares on GoToMeeting with colleagues should occur daily. Keep the app open during the entire work day on your desktop or phone. Morning stand-ups with the team are ideal. If your firm doesn’t have this practice, suggest it. Starting the day chatting with your crew, if only for a few minutes, makes a world of difference in feeling connected and being part of the team.
These are just a few suggestions to ensure that the serenity of working from home doesn’t turn into loneliness and hamper productivity. What are some of the practices you engage in to avoid a lonely office at home? Please add your tips in the comments below.
POSTS IN THE SERIES:
Working Remotely: The Many Benefits
Traits of an Effective Telecommuter
How to Manage Work-at-Home Employees
A Productive Home Office
Managing Solitude
Communication and collaboration
Managing Distractions
Managing Time, Boundaries, and Balance
Evaluating Employee Performance
Company Culture Beyond the Office Walls
How Lee Rosen Moved His Law Firm to an All-Remote Workforce
Working Remotely: Have Computer, Will Travel