Working from home can be great. For many it is a dream position to be in, but it also comes with pitfalls. Even the great moves in life have bad sides to them, including working from home. One of the biggest downsides of working from home is the lack of social interaction which can affect a person mentally and physically. You don’t realize how important it is until you have it missing in your daily life for a length of time and the damage is already showing itself.
Starting Off As a Hermit
When you begin to work from home, you start off as a hermit. You enjoy the solitude to get so much work done. It’s wonderful. You never want to leave it! Trust me, it can be exhilarating seeing how much stuff you can get done in a shorter amount of time without anyone around to interrupt. I didn’t have to attend meetings like I did in the office. I wasn’t wasting time. Even if I did, it was usually via phone so I could still physically get work done while attending the meeting. It was so wonderful. I never wanted to leave the house.
Therein was the problem. I was enjoying working from home so much that I didn’t want to leave. This is not good for the psyche. In fact, it might be deadly.
Many studies are going on around the globe concerning solitude and isolation that seemingly is becoming more common in today’s world. In fact, one study by Brigham Young University suggests that social interaction is vital to our lifespan by about 50 percent. Their results ‘found that low social interaction had a similar impact on lifespan as being an alcoholic or smoking 15 cigarettes a day…[being] more harmful than physical inactivity, and twice as harmful as obesity” as interpreted by medicalnewstoday.com. No one argues the fact that humans are very social creatures, but as technology advances, it appears that they are withdrawing more and more into isolation. Further studies have shown that in “developed nations many people no longer live in extended families, living apart from each other, with relatives at the other end of the country or on the other side of the world. There is also a growing trend to delay having children, and an increasing number of people living alone” (medicalnewstoday.com).
Even when one does stay within relative proximity of family and friends, people today are preferring to be isolated. The Washington Post stated that “Americans go on 60 percent fewer picnics today and families eat dinner together 40 percent less often compared with 1965…are less likely to meet at clubs or go bowling in groups.”
Isolation is increasing, or is it?
Social Interaction Via the Internet
If you are working from home, there is a very high chance that your work involves your computer and the internet. That also means you probably interact with people on a regular basis. It could be through email to get the work done or to solicit work. What research is finding is that most social interaction for the work at home person is through social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.
How much time do you spend on Facebook? Be honest. Even if you work from home and get a ton of stuff done, it is easy to have Facebook open all the time so you chat back and forth with family and friends. You also don’t have to stop work immediately to respond which makes is a huge pro for it as a communication tool. That being said, social interaction for workers at home is high on these sites. Why? For some, it is the ease of leaving it up and communicating whenever they have time. Others use it to promote their services or products. These social media sites are crucial to the work that is being conducted from home. And through these interactions online relationships are developed that can extend beyond business and become true friendships. I know personally I have met many good friends online through my work done strictly from home and on the computer.
Social interaction has actually gone up to some degree, but some areas are still hurting and should not be ignored when you take up the position of working from home.
Interacting with family can actually decrease as you begin to work from home. Remember that statistic about families going on fewer picnics? Overall, families can hurt from the work at home scenario. You are being so productive. You really don’t want to go over to your sister’s game night. After all, there will be other ones, right? But the odds are that you will say the same thing when the next one comes along. Continual avoidance of such events could contribute to that statistics of early death for those who pull away from social interaction. Can online social interaction be enough to compensate for this?
Getting away from your work even when you are being extremely productive can be beneficial for your health and for your work. You might think you are being productive while in reality you could be doing rework that isn’t necessary because you are starting to burn out. These times you get away to spend with the family can recharge you in so many ways. Go to that game night. Interact physically with people. Laugh and have a good time. You’ll feel such a difference. If your family doesn’t do a lot, create your own family event or hang out with friends.
Or you could be in my situation where your family is far away and you have few friends nearby as they are mostly on the internet. Then you need to find other ways to get more social interaction in your life.
Finding More Social Interaction
There are so many places you look beyond family and work to get social interaction. They are extremely social places with so much to offer.
- Church — Most churches or religious groups are highly social. They might be more social than you expect or want, but many have groups within them that you might be interested. There could be book clubs hosted by the church as well as tutoring services or feeding the homeless. Since they are pretty varied, you could easily find at least one group you could connect with and extend your social reach.
- Part-time Job — Getting a part-time job is a great way to get out and get social. I took one as a barista at a local Starbucks. I found myself enjoying interacting with customers and even made a few friends by working there. As a writer, I also found great material for some stories.
- Clubs — Join a book club, writing group, or exercise club. If you really need to increase your physical activity, find a walking club to get you out. You might not do a lot of talking during the exercise, but before and after you will interact. Even joining the YMCA can increase your social interaction. Love to knit? Find a group that meets regularly and interact with them.
- Volunteer Opportunities — There are so many places you could volunteer to extend your social interaction. The hospital, humane society, libraries, and more are always looking for volunteers. You would be so surprised to see how many organizations would love your help and which ones would help you get out and mingle with human beings.