The unspoken loneliness of working from home

Lots of people talk about the freedom and flexibility of working from home, but we seldom talk about how isolating it can be



Man working in a home office

(G. Merrill/Getty)

If you’ve never worked from home, you probably envy people who do—at least a little. They’re the lucky dogs (maybe you use a different word) who can take conference calls in their pyjamas, don’t have to deal with traffic gridlock and never show up late for their kids’ school plays.

But a new global study by workplace provider Regus shows the downside of the home office: 37% of Canadian home-workers say they feel lonely working on their own and 65% say they miss mixing with fellow professionals. Many also crave the stimulation an office environment can provide: 60% of the approximately 2,700 Canadian respondents said they felt they were getting “stale” and needed to schedule trips outside the house. (At least some of the respondents were probably thinking about trips to the gym: About a third reported worrying about gaining weight, since the proximity of a home fridge makes it so easy to snack throughout the day.)

Regus has a vested interest in exposing the dark side of at-home work—after all, it operates business centres designed to serve as alternatives to home offices—but the potential disadvantages are worth considering as more and more Canadian companies experiment with flexible working arrangements. An astonishing 48% of professionals who responded to the Regus survey indicated they worked outside the office more than half the week. It’s no surprise, then, to see a slew of startups like IQ Office Suites, Intelligent Office and Coworking Toronto offer shared workspace in major Canadian cities. Another less conventional option that recently launched in Toronto is Hoffice, a new Swedish project that aims to turn homes and apartments into shared workspaces for freelancers.

Shared spaces like these offer the benefits of an office—phones, wifi, coffee machines, actual human beings to talk to—without the downsides of a home arrangement. They may also improve your family life. According to the Regus survey, 17% of respondents said their family members resented having part of their home sectioned off for work purposes. And 40% reported feeling as if their family didn’t take their work seriously because they did it from home.


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5 comments on “The unspoken loneliness of working from home

  1. I often thank myself for working at home. I don’t have to deal with prima-donnas, cocaine addicts, and administrative lefties when I’m trying to get things done. “Professional” has unfortunately taken on a new meaning of “someone with a job”.

  2. I work at home and follow my same routine, get up take a shower, eat and start at my desk, I avoid the GO Train commute, and get a lot of stuff done early in the morning. Of course I have more flexibility, but I keep saying anyone can hide under the guise of the office, sit at a desk and pretend to be working. The main aspect of working home is a dedicated working space and one’s discipline.

  3. Another issue of course is that office spaces aren’t nearly as private anymore. The trend toward fewer cubicles and open spaces would drive me round the twist; I need quiet and the ability to gather my thoughts in private.

    Also, I like frequent breaks when I work, that’s often not possible in an office because people think you’re slacking.

  4. I worked in an “office” (cubicle and open concept) for over 30 years and was an independent contractor for another 8. I enjoyed both. In an office, I enjoyed interacting with co-workers (most of the time) and as an independent, I enjoyed the freedom of setting my own hours and being able to take care of personal matters such looking after an elderly mother. As I am a bit of a procrastinator, both situations required discipline to “get the job done” as one can waste time in the office just as easily as at home. I did find however, that when working from home, my coffee intake went way down.

  5. I love working at home, but its the commute that I hate…I miss the people immensely. At home its all work no play, ironically. I get no work done in the office yet feel more guilt at home! For guys like me its a trap yet also win-win.