It may be lonely at the top, but corporate leaders at least are surrounded by colleagues and employees. Entrepreneurs and the self-employed, on the other hand, often must fend for themselves, and it can leave them feeling lonely and isolated.
A recent survey conducted by my company, Manta, found that nearly one-third of small business owners feel lonely while at work (compared to just 15 percent of non-entrepreneurs). Of those entrepreneurs who are lonely, 42 percent work alone in an office, shop, or home office, while 30 percent have employees but don't feel connected to them.
More professionals are choosing to go solo as independent contractors in the gig economy, and they are surely enjoying the flexibility that comes with being your own boss. But even for those who prefer to work alone, isolation has its drawbacks. The most self-driven entrepreneurs can still miss the creative energy that comes from team meetings, the collaboration of bouncing ideas off colleagues, or simple water-cooler talk to break up the day.
Fortunately, there are a few ways small business owners can relieve their loneliness without giving up the benefits of being self-employed. These three tips will help you find a way to work alone without feeling lonely:
1. Join local business groups.
Your local chamber of commerce may be an old-fashioned solution to a modern problem: A way to meet and network with other local business owners. Chambers typically offer educational resources to help you grow and manage your company, filling in for some of the expertise you can't account for alone, as well as opportunities to socialize.
In addition to the camaraderie, you can also form real business relationships through your chamber, trade group or neighborhood business association. You might find yourself exchanging sales ideas with owners in complementary fields or brainstorming group marketing campaigns--so you can pass around the vice president of sales and CMO hats you usually wear yourself.
2. Grab a desk in a co-working space.
Coworking spaces run the gamut from casual open rooms with drop-in desks to private offices for rent by the hour, day, or month. Most facilities also offer meeting rooms, kitchens and flexible common areas where you can find other small business owners looking for inspiration.
Whether you make a coworking facility a regular part of your workday or just an occasional destination, the background noise of a shared space can provide a welcomed break from the silence of your home office. They are also good places to meet likeminded entrepreneurs, trade ideas and develop professional relationships.
3. Connect with colleagues online.
Social networking sites and online message boards are also good outlets for connecting with other entrepreneurs (albeit virtually). You can seek advice on these forums, ask for input, or just find reassurance that you're not the only one confronting the challenges of running a small business.
American Express OPEN Forum is one of the most popular advice communities, especially for growing companies. Alignable is a network of local forums, where you can pose questions or join discussions with other business owners in your city. LinkedIn Groups cover a wide variety of locations, industries and other interests. These and many other online communities are free and easy platforms to interact with fellow entrepreneurs who understand that working alone doesn't have to be lonely.