Ok, so you make your own hours, you take holiday when you want, you could theoretically work in your jim-jams and there’s no boss/staff members to irritate you with their dull weekend chat and weird paranoia about what the Finance team have been saying. In fact there’s no team at all. It’s just you. You ARE your boss, which means the only person you can get annoyed with and moan about is….er, you.
If, like me, you find freelancing or going self-employed comes with its own challenges, some of these ways in which I have tried not to go insane might help.
1. Radio is your friend
It’s that soothing murmur of conversation that makes you feel like you’re in some kind of environment again, one where there is noise and laughter and music. Like you have your own aural background, a music bed if you will, to accompany the lonely tap-tap of the keyboard and sad squeak of your mouse.
2. (Any) interaction is good
Take this wherever you can find it. Grab onto anyone talking generally in your direction (figuratively, of course), be they bus driver, coffee shop employee or newsagent. Ensnare them with your witticisms about the changeable weather, or that dog with three legs you often see on your way to the library. (Note: Only live humans, not Facebook, count).
3. Stick to some kind of schedule
You’re lucky enough not to have 9 ‘til 5 forced on you, but too much flexibility is not good for production. Try to stick to a schedule most of the time, even if it’s something wacky like 12 ’til 8. If you need to push things around for dental appointments and so on, act like you would with flexi-time and make it up the next day. (NB. May not apply if you’re not a control freak or don’t need routine to define your life).
4. Give yourself a work ‘uniform’
I’m not suggesting you design your own neon outfit, complete with Velcro lapels and ‘I did some work today, okay?’ emblazoned on the back. I just mean, create a difference between what you do in your downtime and what you do when you’re ‘at work’, even if these two things occur in roughly the same place, by having work clothes and play clothes. It’s like putting on your work ‘hat’ and giving yourself permission to chill out when you take it off. (You don’t need a literal work hat, though.)
5. Meet up with other desperate people
Regularly meet up with other members of that strange, illicit club of people who are available During Normal Working Hours. New mums are often just as desperate for company as you are. They also like to hang out in Café Nero, so it’s a win-win. Alternatively, creep out your friends by announcing that you’re near their workplace, just in time for lunch.
6. Work somewhere…else
Read: not on your bed. Much like what you wear, where you work can have a psychological effect on your wellbeing, so if you haven’t technically left the warmth of your covers all day, this is a recipe for some serious guilty angst later. You might not be that much more productive without your Thomas the Tank Engine duvet, but you’ll definitely feel it. Even if you’re working from home, at least do it in a study room or at the dining room table, so you minimise the misery of back pain in your old age, leaving extra time for the misery of realising you don’t have a pension.
7. Find a substitute office
Admit it, you miss the lacklustre ‘Happy Birthday’ singing and the constant baked goods. But if you can spare the regular cash, co-working spaces can be the fun office you thought you’d never have. See if you have a local ‘Hackspace’ (I use the one in Nottingham) which are member-run workshops and studio spaces for anything from woodwork to robotics, with a pay-for-how-much-you-use policy on monthly fees and a sharing attitude to offcut materials and hot drinks. It’s like going back to uni, complete with oversized trousers and people leaving notes on the fridge. There’s also space to knit/doodle/make a quick electronic circuitboard in your break, should any of these things take your fancy.