I’ve been freelancing and working from home for just about two years now, and the number one thing that people ask me about is whether or not I miss the standard, daily dose of human interaction that comes with an office job and co-workers.
The truth is that I don’t.
Yes, I’m an introvert. And I mostly write for a living, which is a solitary profession by nature. But, I also really do enjoy teamwork, collaboration and a lively exchange of ideas. It sounds funny and maybe unbelievable, but I actually feel like I connect with people on a more meaningful level now that I work for myself.
In the simplest of terms, it’s a quality vs. quantity issue. I’m not discounting the quality of all my professional interactions prior to going independent – I’ve learned tons from my past gigs, found mentors, and created life-long friendships. But for every truly memorable and important conversation I had working a 9-to-5, I probably had a hundred that were a complete waste of time. My days were stuffed with unnecessary check-ins, endless “due diligence” phone calls, and meetings that no one cared about. And don’t forget about the hours spent trying to just schedule all these pointless interactions.
And worse was the way meetings and phone calls were often exploited in unhealthy, politically charged work environments. Ever been on a call and realize its true purpose is to antagonize, expose, or enact revenge on a colleague? Unfortunately, most of us have.
No one wastes my time like this anymore. (I’m not saying I don’t waste time. I certainly do, but it’s always on my terms.) Maybe it’s because I’m on the periphery and not on the payroll, so clients are more mindful of my time. But I think it’s mostly because I’m doing something that I truly love, and I’m getting to seek out who I want to work with.
These days, I probably average one or two phone calls or meetings a week, and I’m (almost) always excited to have them. They (almost) all feel like opportunities. Opportunities to work on something new, make a current project better, or learn from an expert. A ringing phone used to fill me with a sense of dread, but I’ve grown to really enjoy interviewing people, especially people who are just as excited about what they’re doing as I am.
This is where I find that sense of community and partnership. Sure, every once in a while it would be nice to spontaneously walk to Starbucks with a coworker or vent about my frustrations (still got those) with a colleague in the office next door. But I’ll forgo all these perks if I can keep the vast majority of my interactions positive and purposeful.
What’s your ideal work environment?