How to Work at Home (Without Losing Your Mind)

Michaela Cook’s first six months as a home-based promotional products distributor got off to a rocky start. While she had a killer business plan and was already beginning to take on clients, she had one big problem: “I wasn’t used to working at home,” says Cook, president of Cook’s Marketing Solutions. Previously, Cook had a job at a large printing company and commuted to the office each day. “I was used to the whole office routine—the water cooler chat, the lunches with colleagues, and just having regular face-to-face contact with human beings,” Cook laments. “All of a sudden I would go through an entire day without seeing anyone except for my dog.”

It’s a common problem, workplace experts say. “While working from a home office has great benefits, there are also pitfalls,” warms Corrie Hegel, an organizational psychologist. “One of the most common issues people have is a feeling of detachment if there’s not enough interaction with others.”

But it’s possible to work at home without losing your mind, Hegel says. Here are three tips to follow:

Stagger Calls & Appointments. You might be tempted to schedule all of your cold calls or conference calls with clients within one block of time each day. But Hegel advises staggering at least some calls or appointments so that “you never go more than four or five hours without talking to someone.”

Find Ways to Have Human Contact. Try to leave your office at least once a day, even if you don’t have a business appointment planned. Sketch out 45 minutes for cold calling at some business you’re trying to target, or schedule a lunch with a friend of business contact. One idea: Join a local networking club or Toastmasters group where you can connect with others (and perhaps make important new contacts).

Change Up Your Space. It’s great to have a functional and motivating home office. But that doesn’t mean you can’t change it up sometimes, and work in a library, a local Starbucks or a park every once in a while. “Change your environment once in a while, and you’ll feel refreshed,” Hegel advises. “Get out into the world on a regular basis, and you’ll stay more energized.”