On any given day when you have co-workers chatting in your ear, bosses reading over your shoulder, and someone’s cologne assaulting your nostrils, working alone may seem like a dream. But the reality of working as a one-woman office isn’t always utopia. Whether you spend a lot of time on the road, work in a very small (i.e., one employee—you) office, or telecommute from home, isolation is an occupational hazard. Here, a few tips to a successful solo career.
Stay in touch. The old adage “Out of sight, out of mind” can come into play for women working alone, so making communication a priority is imperative. Use your e-mail, telephone, and even text messages for daily communication, send documents through the mail with handwritten notes, and schedule a little face time with co-workers every now and then. Make it hard for others to forget who you are, where you are, and what you are doing and the possibility of dropping out of the loop should dissipate quickly.
Think ahead. Letting others know that you’re still around isn’t enough to keep a career moving full steam ahead. Stay on the radar by letting your superiors know exactly what you are doing now and what you are planning for the future. Propose conference calls or teleconferencing to contribute to important meetings, write up daily or weekly summaries detailing your efforts, and spend time working on formal proposals so that your suggestions aren’t just deleted as if they were e-mail spam. Hosting meetings at your own location can also be a great way to get the big bosses onto your turf so they can see what you’ve done with the place. If you have to reach a wider audience, consider launching a website or asking for an Web page so that you can post news and pictures when they become available. Sending information to the company newsletter or creating your own is another great way to alert others to your work.
Safety first. One woman, alone in a darkened office, no one around to hear her scream. Sounds like the opening of a bad horror movie, right? Unfortunately, this scene isn’t just the stuff of scripts. Women who work alone, whether in an office, by doing home visits, or out on the road, may unfortunately be seen as prime candidates for robbery or attack. To make sure that you stay safe, remember to keep your working area well lit, have access to mobile signals or WiFi at all times, test all security alarms and locks on a regular basis, and avoid working past traditional opening hours without notifying others of your plans.
Preserve your sanity. You know how it only takes about a week of living alone before you talk to yourself at regular intervals? To stay sane, try experimenting with what makes you comfortable. Will some music or talk radio make you feel more connected to the rest of the world? Does a daily to-do list help you stay on task? Will agreeing to mini-deadlines with your supervisor keep you motivated and working toward your targets? When you figure out what helps keep you sane, don’t be afraid to exploit what you learn to make your days more dynamic.