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.