Hello? Is anyone out there? Anyone at all?
Perhaps you can relate to the following scenario. It’s Thursday. Day four of the work week in your basement home office. Day four of writing articles, sorting invoices, surfing the Net and filing papers. Day four of total dedication to your home business. And day four since you’ve had any meaningful contact with the outside world. For all you know, planet earth as you once knew it no longer exists. For all you know, the world has been taken over by aliens named Garth or a meteorite has taken out a large chunk of the United States. And all the while, you blithely carry on puttering away in your basement as if everything is okay. I mean, surely, someone would’ve called if it wasn’t?
When thoughts like these ooze into my brain, I know I’ve reached the juncture that all home-office workers inevitably reach – that point when you’ve lost complete and utter touch with the real world. You can probably recognize the signs. You begin to feel like you’re trapped in an avalanche and wonder if anyone knows you’re in there alive. You e-mail yourself. You pick up the phone to make sure the lines aren’t down. You scan the neighborhood with binoculars in hopes of catching a glimpse of a live human being, just to make sure nothing really bad has happened out there. You become despondent when you schedule a brainstorming meeting with your dog, and even Rex doesn’t show. You invite the insurance salesman in for coffee and a brief discussion on the meaning of life. And yes, you even phone Aunt Geraldine to ask how the gall bladder operation went.
There’s no question about it – maintaining social contact while working out of your home can be a real challenge. Sure, there’s always cyber-contact with the outside, but then again, astronauts have just as much contact (actually more since they rarely travel alone) so it doesn’t really seem to fill the void. Fortunately, there are many ways of maintaining contact with the outside world that you probably haven’t even thought of. Not to worry, I’ve thought of them for you . . .
Move your desk out onto the front lawn. Heck, with extension cords and satellite technology this simple option allows you to maintain contact with neighbors, paperboys, sales reps, joggers, garbage collectors, dog walkers and various vagrants. (Obviously this should only be considered under suitable climatic conditions).
Hold your next meeting at the local bowling alley. Everyone meets at coffee shops – in fact, it’s being done to death. The bowling alley puts you in touch with much more real life sights, sounds and yes, even smells.
Move your home office into someone else’s home. This way you get all the benefits of working out of a home office, but still keep the outside world experience of “heading off to work.” As an added bonus, select a home that has unemployed people living in it so you can maintain that human contact you’re so desperately craving.
Invite former co-workers to work out of your home. With a little ingenuity and creative design, your entire home can be transformed into a mini, Martha Stewartish corporate head quarters, complete with a water cooler located conveniently in your rec room.
Leave urgent messages on clients voice mails telling them to call you at once. When they call, explain that you’ve solved the problem but since they’re on the line anyway, do they know of any good movies to rent? Not only will your phone ring off the hook, you’ll also get some sound home entertainment advice.
Business reading to catch up on? Get out of the office, and forget the library, it’s too quiet. What you need is stimulus not a sedative, so head for the lobby of a large hotel, ride the city bus, get comfy in a Karaoke bar, visit the airport or, try my personal favorite – the provincial court house.
Crash other companies business meetings. People crash weddings and parties, so why not? The key is to dress properly, carry a brief case, arrive a few minutes late and look as though you’re supposed to be there. You can catch up on office gossip and politics, share some jokes, make new friends and not even worry about paying attention when the boss drones on and on.
I promise that if you try one or two of these strategies you’ll begin to feel like a fully functioning member of the human race in no time at all. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s my turn to bowl.
Copyright Michael Kerr. Michael Kerr is a Hall of Fame international business speaker, very funny motivational speaker, trainer, and author of six books, including Inspiring Workplaces and The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses Are Laughing All the Way to the Bank. www.HumoratWork.com
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