AT the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Business Association (SGLBA) working from home is increasingly the reality for many of our members and others in our community — a community workforce characterised by freelancers, creative industries, consultants, and entrepreneurs from arts, culture, events, marketing, digital, technology, etc. With this upward trend comes a greater instance of members experiencing cabin fever, requiring a remedy.

When you’re introduced to the idea of working from home it sounds great. You know your work/life balance will get so much better. No more commute to worry about. You’ll sleep-in that extra 20 minutes. You’ll get to the gym every day. You’ll finally be free of walk-up interruptions. You’ll actually call it a day at 5pm because there are no co-workers to look-on disdainfully.

Many people have taken the plunge and are working from home — be that taking advantage of an employer’s flexible working arrangements or the necessity of being their own boss. The massive increase in home-working is being driven and enabled by four factors: the desire of employees to have greater flexibility and avoid a lengthy commute; improved safe virtual work environments; businesses encouraging home-working while implementing no-fixed-desk work spaces; and better people management practices to support managers with a distributed team.

Working from home can seem like an ideal situation for many people, but what does the reality look like? You can spend all day in your PJs and totally miss breakfast because you dared to peek at your inbox at 7am on your way to the kettle and got stuck at your keyboard as a result. You might not get to the gym too often because constantly you’ll reply to just one more seemingly urgent email. Often at the end of a day you haven’t spoken to anyone or set foot outside the apartment or house, and you start forgetting what sunshine feels like. Cabin fever sets in.

What are the other issues faced by people who work from home? Firstly there’s the problem of setting up an effective workspace in your home, to get you into the right frame of mind for a productive day. Then there are distractions around the house — the television, that messy kitchen, those little jobs you keep putting off. And then there’s knowing when to stop and step away from your work, either to take a break or at the end of the day.

For many people the cabin fever experienced when working from home for extended periods is the greatest challenge that faces them. The isolation of the home office leaves you missing out on the human interactions inherent in the workplace, including the water cooler chit-chat and the camaraderie found in working with others. You miss out on opportunities to bounce ideas off your colleagues or to vent about issues you’re facing. All of this can have a real impact on your effectiveness and productivity, and even your health and general well-being.

In 2013, a survey of work-from-home workers by McCrindle Research found 58 per cent of respondents craving more social interaction and face-to-face contact, while only 25 per cent spoke of the better work/life balance. Meanwhile, the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates one in 12 workers do more hours at home than any other single location in their main or second job.

The solution may be a community workspace that is convenient for home workers, and the customers/businesses they service. Community workspaces offer creative environments where you can interact with other like-minded individuals. They generally offer a range of flexible options and are much more affordable than traditional office spaces. By moving to a co-working space, even if just for a day or even a few hours per week, you can re-energise, and find and connect with similar professionals. In these collaborative spaces you can swap ideas, network with new people and find excellent resources at your fingertips.

Due to increasing demand from members, the SGLBA Board, via a committee led by the vice president and networking director, is incubating an initiative to establish a co-operative community workspace for members, and for the LGBTI community it serves. In brief: a business centre providing work spaces for sole traders and micro-businesses, support services (legal, banking, business planning, coaching, mentor services, etc.), meeting/workshop spaces, and start-up incubation facilities.

Community workspaces can be an important circuit-breaker to relieve a home-worker’s cabin fever. Often just the opportunity to interact with others, to discuss the day’s events or to perhaps catch up on the latest gossip, can be just the tonic you need to rejuvenate your creativity and to put you in a better mood.

If you are a sole trader, freelancer, home-based micro business, employee working from home, or service provider to these groups, and are interested in the facilities of a community business work space, visit the SGLBA website to submit your expression of interest: sglba.org.au/?page=Business_Hub

Will Noble is the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Business Association’s Director of Business Networking. Contact him via email: networking@sglba.org.au

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