Working from home has many perks: the ability to make your own schedule, a super-short commute, being there when your kids get home from school, saving on gas and travel costs, being able to sign for packages or let in repair people. The list goes on. But there are a few drawbacks, too. One drawback is that you lose social and professional networking opportunities that happen daily in a physical office.
Not only does the lack of networking opportunities make it challenging to collaborate with and learn from your peers, but working from home by yourself can also be isolating. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. You can find very worthwhile networking opportunities when you work from home. Here are a few options to consider.
Attending events on a regular basis is a great way to replace networking opportunities frequently found in an office setting. And you don’t have to spend a lot of money to attend national conferences to benefit from this, although that is certainly an option. Event-based networking can also include local professional group meetings, Chamber of Commerce events, social media meet-ups and even lunch-and-learn sessions conducted by businesses or schools in your area.
If there are not a lot of events in your local area, consider reaching out to businesses in your community and co-hosting them together.
Online Networking Groups
Online networking can take place on forums related to your business, on sites created for collaboration in a specific industry and even through frequent comments on your favorite business blogs. And let’s not forget about all of the networking that takes place on social media platforms. LinkedIn is a professional networking powerhouse, but similar benefits can be found from networking on Twitter and in Facebook groups, too.
Webinars and Video Conferences
Many businesses host large-scale webinars, video conferences and workshops – often for free – that help you advance your skills in a specific area. These sessions can also be a great place for networking with other professionals, before and after the sessions. Often all it takes is reaching out to people personally to kick-start a conversation that leads to productive networking.
When you’re ready for a break from your home office, explore co-working spaces in your area. Co-working offers many of the same benefits of working full time in an office at a fraction of the cost. Plus, you usually have the flexibility to pick and choose when you want to work from home and when you’re ready to sit alongside other professionals. When you find the right co-working office, you can get the best of both worlds and a steady stream of networking opportunities.
Each of these examples demonstrates that there are ways to find networking opportunities when you work from home, if you’re willing to be proactive about it. Start with a reasonable goal – one networking activity per week or per month – and stick with it for ongoing benefit. And now that you’re home-based for most of your work hours, you may find that the networking activities you participate in are more useful to you than they were in the past.