How to Connect with Like-Minded Career Women when You're Working from Home
Working from home can be a dream setup for women in so many ways, but it can be awfully lonely, too. These ideas are helping me recapture the work-sister camaraderie I miss from my corporate days.
Launching LYLAS has been a dream long in the making for me, and I'm really grateful for all the opportunities that come with it.
Still, as a solopreneur now working from my home office space, I've found one of the toughest trade-offs is the loss of my built-in work sisters: those incredible women I never would have met if we hadn't ended up in the same office, sharing all the good and the bad on our daily grind. (I'm talking to you, Phaedra, Elyn, Kristin, Tricia, Heather, Mary, Pam, Amy...)
If you're working from home as well, are you with me on this? I appreciate what a privilege it is to make all my own decisions, call the shots. It's pretty awesome. At the same time, I so often miss having a sounding board, an opposing opinion, a creative answer I just can't find on my own. (Also, someone to notice my new killer earrings and to spit coffee laughing with me in the office kitchen.)
It's easy to feel isolated and get in the habit of way too much self-reliance. These are some of the tricks and tools I'm using to find my way back into a tribe of work sisters. Maybe they'll be helpful to you, too.
1. Imagine you've got a global office filled with work sisters...because, now you do.
It's tempting to feel like no one will understand the nuances of your current situation or project, because you're probably working on it solo. Remember when you could walk to the desk next door, and that person automatically understood exactly what you were dealing with, because she was right there working on it too? You were in it together.
Now, you're on your own...so who's your team? Answer: everyone. Every one of your friends and sisters out there.
They may not be simultaneously editing your project plan on Google drive with you, but here's the thing, they can still help you, they still care, and they still want to listen and contribute. Life has taught me that I'm surrounded by women who are multi-passionate, multi-skilled, and increasingly talented and experienced with every passing year. We don't have to use the same key card every morning to be great work sisters.
Your sister who's a nurse by profession? Guess what; she's also an amazingly creative copywriter who would love to jumpstart you out of that content ditch you're in right now. Your friend who's a yoga instructor? She knows an incredible photographer she met on Instagram, who's perfect for your next shoot. Your friend who's a new mom and staying home with her baby? She's got invaluable insight on one of your key audiences and wants to tap you into the demographic like no one else could.
Look around you, and open your mind to the tribe of talented work sisters that extends way beyond the walls of any corporate office. Welcome to your new team! Be there for them, don't take advantage of them, and I guarantee you they will be there for you, too.
2. Create opportunities for real-life collaboration and co-working.
Sometimes, it's not so much that I need specific advice or collaboration on a project; I just miss the physical camaraderie of other women working close by. Maybe it's because I come from a huge family, but I feed off the energy of other people. I love to be working in the middle of some buzz.
I now have to make my own opportunities to work in this kind of environment, so I schedule co-working/collaboration hours right here in my LYLAS space. I call it the LYLAS Lab. It's large enough for 7 or 8 of us to work comfortably. Every couple of weeks, I invite other women looking for an open work environment to come on over to my space, set up shop, and benefit from the shared energy, productivity, and general happiness that stem from women coming together in shared pursuits. And, by the way, in the LYLAS workspace, "work"means whatever you wish to creatively and productively express. That could mean you're working on a board meeting presentation, or it could mean you're working on a vision board. Your work is whatever you feel needs to get out into the world.
If you don't have the physical space to invite a group to co-work, perhaps you have enough space to invite just one friend every once in a while? Other options: book a room at your local library for a group, or find a coffee shop during off hours when it's on the quiet side. (Order lots of coffee and snacks in return for your table and wifi.) You can also sign yourself up for some time in a co-working space in your area, if you live near one and you have room in your budget. (If you happen to be in a larger city, have you heard of The Wing? I'd love to check this place out.)
3. Consider a Slack space or WhatsApp string to emulate the casual and convenient interaction you enjoyed in shared office space.
I like WhatsApp and Slack for this type of communication because it feels easier to stay focused on mostly work-oriented stuff than when you're on a typical text string. You know how quickly those strings happily devolve into photos of our dogs and discussions of what to buy next at Sephora! WhatsApp is super accessible, and convenient. Slack gives you the options of multiple channels and functionality for saving, searching, and sharing, if you decide you want a more elaborate hub for your group.
4. Reach out to other women who have skill sets complementary to your business, and offer a service-in-kind arrangement.
She doesn't know this yet, but I'm planning to reach out to my sister, who is one of the most talented photographers I know, and ask for her help designing a gallery wall in the LYLAS workspace. I'll offer her my services in kind: organizing her closet for the upcoming season, or doing a shopping/styling session with her, or consulting on some lifestyle aspects of her work. I'll feature her work for LYLAS, and learn a ton from her throughout the process.
I'm sure you also are surrounded by talented women who could benefit from all you have to offer. Next time you're thinking about outsourcing work, ask yourself who you know who could step in with her expertise. I bet you've got something equally expert to offer her.
Exchanging services in kind is one of the most fulfilling ways to work together as women. We each get something great out of the interaction. And, we get to spend time together, learning from and enjoying each other while we're at it.
5. Stay active (in all the good ways) on social media where your virtual work sisters tend to show up and talk shop.
I need to work on this one. A few years ago, I cut way back on my personal social media use, to save both time and sanity. What I've missed, though, are those everyday interactions with the women I no longer get to see at work. I'm going to re-establish those connections and take advantage of all the positive aspects LinkedIn and Facebook have to offer. (Because TBH, I've got an Instagram habit already.) I'll keep you posted on this progress. In the meantime, please let me know all the things I don't know about how to master this, in the comments below.
I'm experimenting and exploring with all these techniques, and I hope they also inspire some ideas for you to connect with other working women in your life. (And once again, the LYLAS definition of "working" encompasses way more than earning a paycheck.) I'll keep you posted on how all these efforts are panning out for me. Keep me posted on how it's going for you, too.
Love you like a sister,