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Bettie Goes Solo: What I Miss About Working In An Office

Over a year and a half into working for myself, and by myself, I’ve had a bit of time lately to reflect on where my head is at. October and early November are generally down times in terms of season for me. Retailers are focusing on Christmas stock and customers are waiting with bated breath for the madness that is Black Friday. It’s the calm before the storm really and it’s got me thinking about what I miss about office life.

Now, let me get one thing straight. I would never, in a million years, trade being self-employed for going back into an office job. Like never. And while I miss being paid for days when I’m full of a cold, the only office politics in my studio involve me negotiating with the dog about what time we’re going out for a walk.

But aside from all the rubbish things that come along with working in an office, there are lots of good things that you sacrifice when you go at it alone. And if you’re not the type to cope well with being by yourself, then you’ll find it difficult to adjust to this working style.

After years of working in an office, I quite enjoy the solace of working by myself. It feeds directly into my control freak complex and means the dress code is really low shelf. So much so, that since employing my first part-time Studio Assistant, I’m finding it a little difficult to readjust to having to work with others.

If you’re like me and at the early(ish) stages of running your own business by yourself, here are some of the things that I miss most about being in an office, and how I combat them. Some may seem a little frivolous, but they are still something that have a daily impact on my work. Others are more serious and if you don’t address them when you first start to get the inkling something is going on, you’re in trouble.

 

No man is an island… unless, of course, that man is a small business owner.

Let’s get one thing established. The isolation is real. The only person to talk to you is you. The only person to motivate you is you. The only person to bounce ideas of is… you guessed it… you. If you have a tendency to be a bit of a procrastinator, you might want to sort that out before venturing into small business.

Some days when my work day is over, I realise that the only time I’ve actually used my voice has been belting out a Queen tune as I’m working through orders. And that’s going to be the reality of most days. The lack of human interaction will become fairly obvious after the initial excitement wears off. So here’s a couple of tips to combat it:

  • Find a time in the day to FaceTime family and friends:
    I usually sort my orders first thing and then call my Mum and Dad. And even though this is virtual interaction, it’s good to be able to talk to someone about whatever is on your mind that day. It’ll clear your head a bit and let you carry on with the rest of your day.
  • Swap your days around
    Realistically, most of your friends are going to be working their 9-5 jobs but you’ll likely have a few friends who are looking after young children or business owners themselves. So I always try to schedule weekday catch ups with them and then swap that out for a little bit of work at the weekend.
  • Get out of the house
    Going for a ten-minute walk or just popping to the shops can be a Godsend when you’re starting to experience a bit of cabin fever. Find a way to make sure you’re looking away from the screen for at least an hour in the day.
  • Consider using a shared working space
    For a lot of businesses like mine, this won’t work. But if you’re just reliant on your laptop then look into shared working spaces. You’ll be around people in similar situations to you and can interact with them, make new contacts and possibly even new friends.
  • Take some time to volunteer
    Even if it’s for a few hours a week. There are PLENTY of charities that are looking for volunteers and it’ll make you feel pretty good about yourself too.

 

There’s no I in team… but there is tea, so many cups of tea

I loved my team at my office job in the city. I loved seeing their faces every morning and also really loved delegating work to them. When you work in a good team, there’s nothing you can’t achieve. But when you are working by yourself, all of that disappears. I’m the type to get a million things in my head and want to do them all at once. And while that might be almost achievable in a team of 10, in a team of one it’s a guaranteed way to burn out.

The collaborative approach to new ideas is also something that you’re going to miss when you start working by yourself. I’m not talking about the too many cooks who don’t even know what they’re doing kind of collaboration. I’m talking about the type when you have a little seedling of an idea, talk to your team about it and before you know it you’ve taken a little whisper of an idea and turned it into a walking talking project. One that’s just getting better and better as the team is adding their different areas of expertise to the idea. You know, the ones that you’re really excited to get working on and deliver because it’s going to be ace. Yeah, that kind of collaboration is hard to come by when you’re a small business owner.

And, if I’m brutally honest, I also really miss the constant stream of hot cups of tea that you get in an office environment. There was always someone doing a tea run and I was REALLY good at making sure that someone was never me. I miss the tea-on-tap that I used to have in an office, like really miss it.

So how do you address the lack of team interaction? I’ll tell you:

  • Outsource, outsource, outsource
    Recently I’ve been updating my website and I’ve outsourced a load of the work (SEO and Technical) to other freelancers and small business owners. Not only have I learnt a lot, but it’s also nice to feel like you have someone that’s fighting for your brand and wanting to see it win.
  • Networking: only one letter away from Not Working
    Listen, I HATEEEE networking with a passion. But although it pains me to say it, it’s totally worth it when you’re a small business. Most of my networking is done online because I can’t even fathom the thought of being in a community hall with a name badge on, drinking bad filter coffee. And these days you don’t need to do that. There are so many platforms that you can use to make sure you’re connecting with people that have similar interests to you. I mainly use Facebook Groups and Instagram as there are always networks already set up that you can just request to join.
  • Get a flask, you lazy thing
    Like seriously, just get a flask. Luckily when I left my office job, my team bought me a flask as they knew how much I would struggle with making my own tea, so wanted to make sure I could double the cups and halve the effort.

And, if I’m brutally honest, I also really miss the constant stream of hot cups of tea that you get in an office environment. There was always someone doing a tea run and I was REALLY good at making sure that someone was never me. I miss the tea-on-tap that I used to have in an office, like really miss it. 

I don’t know everything, despite what my ego tells me

Lastly on my list of things I miss from working in an office is the mentoring relationships I had at work; both being a mentor to others and a mentee (yes, that is totally a word).

There was always something really satisfying about these relationships. In my early days in an office, I found being mentored to be very humbling in a really good way. Being guided by someone (even though in my early twenties I never thought I needed to be) can really help you grow as a professional, but also just generally as a human. My boss was great at this – she’d slip a life lesson into a 1-2-1 that I didn’t even know I needed. I’d walk away feeling like I’d learnt something new and there are many of those lessons that I still use today.

When I first started working in the UK, I had a certain Aussie aggression about me. While this is perfectly normal in Australia, it took me a long time to adapt to the British working culture. “You catch more flies with honey, than you do with vinegar” my boss used to say. I’d be all like “What are you on about woman?”. But to this day I use this approach when dealing with irritating customers and suppliers who aren’t meeting deadlines. And let me tell you, it works.

As I got more senior in my role I started to become the mentor and pay it forward. I loved being able to share knowledge, grow ideas or just talk someone through a problem. It was amazing to see some of my younger team members blossom into fully functioning professionals with something real and interesting to contribute. I miss that. I miss watching people realise their potential, in many cases potential they didn’t even know they had.

The best piece of advice I can offer you here is that you need to find a mentor. Luckily, I have a Dad and Sister who are both small business owners so I have them to be mentored by. But there are plenty of services available to help you find yours, or in fact become a mentor yourself:

 

And finally, remember why you started

I think it’s really important when you’re starting to recognise that you’re missing your old life to remind yourself why you started. It’s easy to get consumed with what you don’t have anymore, but in my opinion, it’s even easier to take a collective look at everything you do have now.

Think of the commute you no longer need to do. The office politics that you no longer have to waste your energy on. The total and utter control you have over your own business and your destiny. It’s all totally worth it. So recognise where you’re feeling a little low and use some of the tips to combat those issues. Because if you don’t they could get on top of you and become pretty all-consuming.

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Andy is the owner of Bettie Confetti, a snarky greeting cards line available at Not On The High Street, Etsy and select independent retailers in the UK. Need help creating the perfect workplace? Read our guide on how to set up a home office.

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