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How to Maintain a Social Life When You Work From Home

When you work from the comfort of your home, your social life can suffer. Here’s how you can stay social, despite your work preferences!

maintain a social life while working from home

Working from home is often one of the most rewarding things a person can do. There’s no annoying commute, you can wear old, comfy sweatpants and a ratty t-shirt, if you want to, and you aren’t restricted to certain times for bathroom breaks or meals.

However, one downside to being a work-from-home professional is the social isolation you may sometimes incur. Nevertheless, fear not—even though you won’t encounter other people as often as you would if you worked in an office *and depending on the amount of privacy you prefer, you may find that to be a good thing*, you aren’t doomed to becoming a lonely outcast, cut off from everyone you used to talk to, as well as any new people you might be interesting in meeting.

How to stay social when you work from home

There are some fairly easy ways for you to ensure that you continually remain involved with others in the outside world.

#1 Attend networking events. One of the easiest ways to keep in touch with acquaintances and meet new contacts is by attending professional events for individuals working within your field. Not only are you likely to come upon people whom you can regularly have coffee or lunch with, you may also make connections that will help you get ahead in your career.

Even if you’re a little bit on the shy side, talking to people from your own field shouldn’t be too awkward, as you’ll already have at least one common interest, and perhaps you’ll discover others, too.

Many professions have a corresponding national trade association, such as the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) or the National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP) in the United States. Information on the events held by these associations, plus any fees for participants, can normally be found on the association websites or by giving a particular association a call.

If you’d like to meet professionals outside of your field as well as within it, you can also go to networking events put on by your local Chamber of Commerce. Being exposed to people from different walks of life is often fun, as well as eye-opening—after all, having a social circle of very similar friends can get pretty dull.

#2 Join Meetup.com. If you already attend networking events regularly, or haven’t particularly enjoyed them, you might want to try expanding your social circle in more informal settings. If you’re not familiar with the website Meetup.com, it features thousands of Meetup groups from a total of 196 countries, focusing on a wide variety of interests such as writing, computer programming, video games, art, sports, wine tasting, and much, much, more.

These groups function more like social clubs than professional associations, with most offering a relaxed atmosphere, in which group members can get to know each other by talking and doing activities. You’ll probably be able to find a Meetup group that’s related to your field, but if you think you’d be bored with that after working all day, why not join a group revolving around a hobby or interest you usually don’t have time to pursue?

As with professional trade associations, the members of all Meetup groups should have at least one interest in common, so conversation normally flows quite easily between people. Some Meetup enthusiasts have even been known to have met their significant others through these groups. [Read: How to keep a conversation going with the opposite sex]

#3 Go to alumni events at your alma mater. Especially if you’re a recent graduate, you’ll likely have friends from university or college who are still on your radar, and this group may even include some graduates who went into the same field as you. However, many of us are guilty of not keeping in touch with our university and college friends, due to moves across the country, becoming busy with children, working longer and longer hours, and myriad other reasons.

Instead of making the effort to see our old friends, we often resort to sending them the odd email or Facebook message, promising that we’ll meet them for lunch sometime, or contact them if we’re ever in their city. Chances are, these meetings never end up happening, with both parties claiming, “I got busy.”

Virtually all working professionals are busy, whether they’re home-based or not, but one way you can get the chance to see multiple friends from school in one place is by attending alumni events such as dinners, pub nights, and concerts.

Afraid no one you know will show up, and you’ll spend the entire night talking to a guy from your English class whom you spoke all of two words to during your degree? Solution: Shoot a quick message about each alumni activity to your email list, or create an event on Facebook and invite your friends. [Read: How to make small talk without feeling awkward]

Perhaps some will be legitimately busy, or pull the “busy” excuse, but if you give an event enough promotion, you’re likely to see at least a few familiar faces. You may even run into some former classmates you’ve completely forgotten about, and be able to snag their new phone numbers. Sometimes old beer-pong buddies of the opposite sex become more attractive as they age, too.

#4 Schedule regular gatherings with close friends and family members. If you’re lucky, you might have a few friends whom you already meet up with on a semi-regular basis, whether they’re old cronies from school or people you’ve happened to come upon through other activities. You need to make sure you maintain these friendships, instead of “losing touch” with your friends as you hole up in your home office day after day. Making plans to “do lunch” with these people isn’t a bad thing, as long as the lunches or dinners or happy hours or whatever actually happen.

Rule number one: When you’re talking about getting together with a certain person or group, don’t be non-committal about the time or the place you’re meeting at, as that increases the chances that one or more of you will squirm out of the plans. “Thursday at Starbucks, at 6 pm?” is what you should be going for when setting up a coffee date, as opposed to saying, “I’ll call you next week,” or even “Uh, I dunno, I’ll call you Thursday.”

When a hangout time is scheduled, all participants can guarantee that their calendars are free, so there’s a much greater chance that you’ll end up seeing each other. Of course, sometimes last-minute assignments come up, but before you cancel your date with a friend or group of friends, ask yourself if the work can possibly wait another hour or two.

With your closest friends, and your family members, if you’re close to them, you can even set up regular weekly “dates” so that you’re guaranteed to talk face-to-face at least once a week. For example, offer to meet Mom on Wednesdays for dinner, your brother on Friday nights for drinks, your old roommate on Sunday evenings at your favorite college hangout, and so on.

When something becomes part of a regular weekly routine, it’s harder to back out of it, even if all you want to do is crawl into bed early and watch Netflix. If get-togethers end up happening more than once every seven days, you can just consider them icing on the cake. [Read: 6 ways to stop glorifying busy and start living instead!]

#5 Work in public places. There’s an old saying that tells us not to mix business with pleasure, but when you’re working as an independent contractor with no official colleagues around, sometimes doing so is okay. One way you can mix business with pleasure is by working in public, such as in a coffee shop, on a park bench, or at a public library.

You don’t need to work at a public place every day of the week, especially if you find that you accomplish more at home. But to connect with other people, you need to put in an appearance every once in a while.

Since so many places have free Wi-Fi these days, and a lot of us have Wi-Fi on our cell phones anyway, the options for working in public are almost endless. You’re bound to regularly bump into other professionals or individuals enjoying their leisure time that you can become friends with, and if you’re working in a creative field such as graphic design or writing, getting out of your bedroom or office and into the world may give you the inspiration you need for a new project.

However, remember to strike a balance between being friendly with others and getting things done. Instead of letting a super-chatty person talk your ear off for six hours straight, tell them you need to get back to your tasks, but it was great to meet them and you’ll give them a call later. Remember to also respect the accepted noise level of the place you choose to work at. For instance, if you like entertaining large groups of people with your clever jokes, don’t start working in a library.

There you have it—five straightforward ways to ensure that you don’t become a friendless recluse, despite the fact that you’re working from the comfort of your home. You don’t need to put all of these strategies to use at once, even if you’re aware that you’re lonely, but if you find yourself staring at a computer screen every Friday and Saturday night, and you’ve realized that your phone never rings unless it’s a client calling, you should strongly consider attempting to expand your social circle again.

With technology becoming so prevalent, it’s difficult for all of us to put down the iPad and actually speak to another person, but once you do, you’ll get a feeling of happiness and connectedness that you can’t get from any form of technology. Plus, positively interacting with others and doing activities outside the home will make you feel physically better too.

[Read: 12 quick tips to add more people to your social circle ]

What are you waiting for? Brush the cobwebs out of your hair, trade your sweats for a trendy new outfit, and get back out there! Working from home doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice a booming social life for the comfort of staying in!

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