Get out of your home-office box

I have been based from a home-office since the early 1990s, when my then employer, SmithKline Beecham, set me up as their first full-time office based team member.  I like my home office, I feel comfortable in the space I find familiar and safe.  Indeed, so comfortable that I, like many of my peers, have been known to work in my pyjamas and eat cereal at my desk.  This month, I started to spend one day per week at a desk-sharing space in Llandovery, called The Pod, which offers high-speed internet, a great clean and fresh working space and the chance to get un-comfortable, in the best possible way.

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One of my favourite sayings about change, has to be “Change never came from a place of comfort”.  It’s certainly proved to be true for me, and over the last five decades, I’ve made the bravest and most important changes when I’ve been at my most un-comfortable.  That’s why I haven’t been totally surprised by the instant benefits that have come about in the first month of this new arrangement, which have included:

  • Getting more done in an hour than I do in my home-office:  I suspect this is partly due to the lack of distractions (the garden calls me constantly at this time of year) and partly due to the fact I know I’m paying to use the space and want to make it count (I must add it’s exceptional value for money and the speed of the internet alone is priceless to me).  What ever the reasons, I have been more productive and this has been the case for every visit.
  • Meeting fellow business owners and solopreneurs who live and work in my community:  It’s easy to feel isolated when you’re working in a home-office, and being in a space with others who are going through similar experiences running a business can re-motivate and reassure us.  I’ve been inspired by one of the younger people working here, who’s writing his first book, and his enthusiasm for his new opportunity has reignited my love of writing.
  • Investing in myself:  I spend money on using this space, and although it’s only a small amount, I’ve got to that point in my business where I can invest in my surroundings.  I’ve given myself permission to spend some of the money I’ve earned this year on a space that motivates me.  That feels like an acknowledgement of how far I’ve come in the last 12 months and I’m acknowledging that to myself which motivates me to continue to strive to grow my business.
  • Connecting with the broader community:  I’ve eaten in three local restaurants in the last month, here in Llandovery.  I’ve eaten with new contacts, and met people they know.  I’ve expanded my local network and been introduced to people who work in our town.  It’s important to me that we’re part of our community, and play an active role in the growth of our town, and the best way to do this is to meet the right people.  Being in The Pod has given me the chance to start building on this.

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I’m sitting in The Pod as I write this blog, and I’m also aware of the things that are harder to explain or measure; things like the traffic going past which reminds me how busy our town is and that life goes on outside my tiny home-office.  The coming and going of local business people, the buzz it creates to hear voices in the meeting room behind me as a group hold a team meeting, all help to banish that sense of isolation that can overwhelm us when we work from home.  The invitation to join Luke, one of the team here at The Pod, to have lunch and talk about our businesses, that reminds me how much I enjoy connecting great people who can help each other.

When we sit in our comfortable, safe and familiar home-offices, we’re missing out on the many chances to get out and meet others who can have such a positive impact on our working day in the short and long-term.  Consider assigning one day each week in your schedule to getting out to a local shared space and seeing how it can impact your results, your network and your enjoyment for what you do.

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I’d love to see you at The Pod – let me know when you’re planning to work from here, and let’s start a conversation.

Dinah

 

Is there anybody out there?

Running your own business can be all absorbing, exciting, challenging and – lonely. It can feel like nobody knows what’s happening in your world; how important it is that the next stage of your website is ready or that your followers went up by 30 this week. Sometimes, when you are running your own business, it feels like you’re totally alone. The good news is, there are lots of business owners in the same position, feeling isolated and frustrated, questioning their commitment and ability to succeed on their own, every day.

Getting strong foundations in place to support you, at every stage of your business, is a great way to ensure you can build and stand strong in difficult times – like now. It is never too late to start; we can put foundations in place at every stage of our business, for the next stage.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Be honest about where you are, right now. Are you isolated because you choose to be or because of genuine restrictions? Are you creating opportunities to meet new people, people who are also building a business.
  • Be clear about who you are looking for. This is not about hunting for clients. This is about building a “tribe” around you, a group of people you can depend on. Like-minded people who are there to support and encourage each other.
  • Don’t worry – it doesn’t have to get “touchy-feely” this is about letting people know when you need support. Sharing those challenges and being prepared to say “I’m not fine right now.”
  • Ask for help. Sounds simple – so why don’t we do it? Usually because we believe we should know something already, that we should have the answers or be able to find them ourselves. We are concerned that our credibility will be damaged; in truth, credibility is often built when we have the courage to ask for help and to take the action required to resolve an issue or learn something new.

When we feel isolated it is easy to forget that we can start a conversation too. Taking the initiative can be a step into the dark but it’s worth taking. I was asked by a client this week whether to stop tweeting as he had not been getting much response. I suggested that he stop tweeting statements and start asking questions; he had his first reply within four minutes. He started a conversation. You don’t need to wait for someone else to break the silence, you can take the first step – and don’t be put off it takes a while to get a response, people have to get to know you.

I often joke that my commute is around 30 seconds – from my home office to my sitting room. I enjoy a little gloat when my ex-colleagues talk about their 90 minute daily journey, squashed on the tube, getting up-close and personal with a stranger’s armpit. And then I remember how many people I would smile at on my journey home, how many people I said “Good evening” to, how a small group of us used to meet and share our day on the journey home. Even that brief interaction was an important part of my day.

Without a commute, it is important to create time with others. If leaving your office is not an option, there are a plethora of tools available to allow you to hold on-line meetings with cameras allowing participants to feel more connected. If you are able to leave the office – then do it. Take a look at what is on locally that is of interest and go. It may not be a business related event and that’s great; business people have lives and interests too! Schedule an appointment ever y week; an appointment called “Time with others” or “Finding out who else is out there” whatever works for you and stick to it.

There are plenty of people out there, all it takes is “Hello” to start the conversation.

I originally wrote this for Virgin.com when I was a VIB (Very Important Blogger).  Since then. we have moved to a tiny village in Wales, where our closest friends are a number of miles away. It would be even easier now to become isolated.  I’m finding new and fun ways to get out into the community as I can and loving the connections it is creating for me.