Hell might be other people, but isolation sure ain’t heaven. Even the most introverted are still part of Homeous Socialitus Erectus, which is why prisoners fear The Hole more than living with other inmates. We’re simply not designed for a life of total solitude.
The occasional drawback of working remotely is that it can feel like you’re surrounded by plenty of people. You have your coworkers on instant messenger or in Campfire, you receive a constant deluge of emails, and you enjoy letting the trolls rile you up on Reddit. But as good as all that is, it’s not a complete substitute for real, live human interaction.
Fortunately, one of the key insights we’ve gained through many years of remote work is that human interaction does not have to come from either coworkers or others in your industry. Sometimes, even more satisfying interaction comes from spending time with your spouse, your children, your family, your friends, your neighbors: people who can all be thousands of miles away from your office, but right next to you.
But even if you don’t have friends or family nearby, you can still make it work; you’ll just have to exert a little more effort. For example, find a co-working facility and share desks with others in your situation. Such facilities can now be found in most larger cities, and even some smaller ones.
Another idea is to occasionally wander out into the real world. Every city, no matter how small, offers social activities to keep you sane and human, whether it’s playing chess in the park, finding a pickup basketball game, or volunteering at a school or library on your lunch break.
Cabin fever is real, and remote workers are more susceptible to it than those forced into an office. Fortunately, it’s an easy problem to address. Remote work doesn’t mean being chained to your home-office desk.
This essay comes from the Beware The Dragons chapter in our new book REMOTE: Office Not Required. The book is being released October 29, 2013.
Anonymous Cowardon 22 Oct 13
All else equal, working remote is a cost. You can’t beat the bandwidth of the physical world. Your book has the wrong focus: the value is in a flexible work setup, not in remote work per se. The ability to work remote is just about an employer being flexible with employees, helping them be happy, not in the inherent superiority of remote work.
Michaelon 23 Oct 13
@Anonymous Coward: The bandwidth of the physical world is important for certain disciplines, but not necessarily software engineering per se. Sure there are some projects, or phases where being in an office is a benefit.
@dhh: After working for over 5 years telecommuting for Canonical, one of the most helpful strategies I’ve found is popping out and spending the last hour of my day in a cafe. There’s the obvious ‘get out and see real people’ aspect (chat with the person serving coffee or whatever), but the biggest benefit for me is that it provides a transition when I finish work during the 5-10 minute walk home, so that I’m actually there-in-mind when I join the family at the dinner table.
Daveon 26 Oct 13
Would strongly recommend the way I combat cabin fever while working from home – volunteer with an emergency service. Not only do you get out and meet some great people, you’ll also stay fit, help the community, and have some truly awesome experiences. Take some time away from the computer and learn how to be a firefighter!
This discussion is closed.