A few weeks ago I wrote 5 Things That Suck About Working at Home. Without a doubt, feeling isolated/lonely is one of the biggest challenges of working from a remote office.
Even if I spend the entire day in meetings, talking on the phone just isn’t the same as interacting with real, live people.
That’s why it’s important for me to have a handful of close friends to keep me anchored in the world of the living.
World’s Best Colleagues
My colleagues are amazing, and I wish I saw them more often. I’ve worked with two incredibly talented women my entire career. I affectionately refer to them as my work big sister and work mom. They’ve been the best role models & mentors, but, more importantly, they’re great friends.
Even when we aren’t working on the same projects, we check in regularly. Every time I travel to the office, we go out to dinner and spend hours laughing and catching up.
I’m also incredibly lucky to have a great relationship with my boss. We’ve worked together for almost nine years, and even when she became my manager, it didn’t cause so much as a hiccup in our friendship.
We always plan dinner when I’m in town, and the conversation quickly turns from career to life. She introduced me to sushi rolls, so it’s our tradition to try the craziest combinations. She also introduced me to Malibu Bay Breezes. Awesome boss, amirite or what?!
I stay in touch with other colleagues too. We email photos of our children, swap race stories, and drool over each other’s vacation pics. When I have a chance to see them on business trips, we enjoy catching up in person over dinner & drinks (or more often for me, dessert!).
If I lived closer to these colleagues, I’d definitely hang out with them outside of work, and my dance card would be full!
But, alas, I don’t live close to ANY of them. Which brings me to the point of this post.
Working at Home is Not Conducive to Making New Friends
When two of my closest friends moved away earlier this year, I immediately noticed the void, and it became glaringly obvious how challenging it is to make new friends.
Even though I’m a naturally extroverted person, I’ve got a few things working against me:
1. No Built-in Pool of Potential Friends
When you’re not in an office, you can’t strike up a conversation around the water cooler and discover your new bestie sits three cubicles away. Nor can you grab a few colleagues for a coffee break between meetings. Sometimes MacAfee (my beloved dog) will join me for a snack break, especially if there’s popcorn involved, but I find the conversation lacking.
2. Limited Time
As most salaried employees know, the 40-hour work week is an urban legend. When I have big projects on my plate, my business hours often spill into the evenings and weekends. Add in marriage & motherhood responsibilities, exercise to preserve my mental health, and enough sleep to get up & repeat each day, and you’ve pretty much wiped out any free time to go out and meet new people.
3. Limited Opportunities
Because I need to be extremely efficient with my precious free time, I do most of my runs & workouts solo. Before we had the girls, my husband and I belonged to a gym. We’d go almost every evening after work, and we met some great friends in classes or by striking up a conversation.
Nowadays, I can’t imagine going to the gym in the evening. If I don’t work out early in the morning or during lunch, it’s not going to happen.
Because my husband and I both work, our evenings are reserved for family time. We only have a few precious hours with our girls before bedtime, and I really don’t want to be anywhere else.
The same is true for the weekends. I have very little guilt about working, but I would feel guilty about dropping my kids off at gym daycare on the weekends.
4. Scheduling Conflicts
Even though working from home allows me some flexibility, I’ve still got to put in a full day’s work and make progress on my never-ending to-do list. It can be downright impossible to coordinate schedules with friends. Whether they work full-time, part-time, or kid-time, finding the common sweet spot in our schedules is nothing short of a miracle.
It’s become increasingly difficult to get together regularly with some of my closest friends, especially since we’re at different points in our lives and careers. I suppose that’s just part of growing up, but it makes me sad nonetheless.
Despite the challenges, I still believe it’s important to make new friends and meaningful connections, no matter what stage of life we’re in.
Sometimes we just need a friend to listen to us moan & groan about work, kids, and the gray hair/wrinkles/cellulite that is popping up at an alarming rate.
That’s one of the reasons I love blogging. I value the incredible connections and friendships I’ve made over the last four months. Even though we may never meet in person, it’s nice to know I have so many new friends to support & encourage me.
How do you make new friends? Do you have any tips for balancing work, family, and friends?