The Loneliness of the Long Distance Secretary

2nd February 2016:


In April 2000, when I first became self-employed, I read many, many books on being a freelancer and working from home.  According to all these books, the 

greatest challenge I would face was the adjustment from life in a busy, fast-paced office (with all its camaraderie and sense of belonging) to working alone with no one to talk all day. 



Huh! The books had it wrong.  I couldn’t wait.


There wouldn’t be time to be feel isolated.  I would be too busy setting up and running a business. There would be no need (or time) to follow the books’ advice (“make time to go to the gym”, “meet friends for lunch”).  I already had a social life away from work.  I would cope.


Sixteen years on, I still feel the books have got it all wrong.  And perhaps a teeny bit right.


My social life is fine; I fit in visits to the gym and none of my friends feels neglected - although I hardly ever meet any of them for lunch during the week. 


But, yes, there is a gap.


For approximately three days each week, I work by myself.  Home alone.  Then I spend the rest of my week working in clients’ offices.  But even these days can be spent by myself.  Office alone.


My clients are small businesses who take full advantage of all the professional, multi-skilled freelancers and VAs out there – and outsource all of their admin/secretarial work. 


My virtual colleagues are scattered all around the country – and all around the world, too (one is based in Australia and two are in South Africa).  We’re all self-employed; we work when and how we want, and we've been lucky enough to find that elusive work/life balance. True, we’ve lost the chance to gossip in the kitchen while waiting for the kettle to boil, and the spontaneous after-work drinks.  We’ve lost the sense of office camaraderie.


Despite not believing the books and being desperate to wave goodbye to office life, we've all discovered that, somewhere along the road, having a colleague to talk to, to bounce ideas off (and let’s be honest, to have a good moan to) can be a bit of a miss after all.*


And in December, when everyone's getting dressed up to go to their office Christmas parties, it can feel a bit like … well, remember that wonderful “Dead Ringers” sketch about Dame Ellen McArthur?  The Lone Yatchswoman’s Christmas Party?  Yep, that how it feels.


Ah, but do I miss office life enough to go back to it full-time?  What do you think?


Christine ... from the Shed


* a good shout at Radio 4 (especially The Archers) really helps, though!



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