Reducing caregiver isolation, working from home, using coworking
January 23, 2012 2 Comments
Recently, I shared my own experience of isolation and loss of social skills as I became more and more occupied with caregiving, and then I suggested that caregivers be alert about this possibility and guard against it. A few days later, I happened to talk to a caregiver and she described what she planned to remain connected to people even when she worked from home. I asked her whether I can share her idea, and she not only agreed, she even said that such sharing helps people and she also may pick up ideas if others share their ideas (hint, hint, to any of you who has ideas) 🙂
Anyway, so this caregiver looks after a dependent parent who has dementia and is immobile, but can be safely left alone for a few hours. The caregiver works from home, executing freelance assignments that she does on her computer and emails. She was once very active socially and her enforced seclusion dampens her spirit, so here is what she is considering:
This caregiver has an “office room” to work from. Now she will add some tables and chairs to this room to make it suitable for multiple users. She will then invite friends who work from home to use her office room as their offices. Each person will work on her own assignments while sharing the same office space and in the companionable presence of others, so that they all feel like working more and don’t succumb to distractions or feel lonely. The caregiver plans to put out flasks of tea or coffee (for which she may ask her friends to pool money, or maybe not, she hasn’t decided).
Years ago, when I started working from home, that mode of working was very unusual, and I did not know anyone else who worked that way. But now many persons work from home, and “telecommute” is common. And while such a mode of working saves on commute and gives flexibility, people miss the office atmosphere and feel secluded. The simplicity and do-ability of this shared-office-space-at-home idea impressed me.
There could be practical problems, of course, mainly on how to adjust to the presence of others at home when there is a patient to care for; problems I could think of were the patient getting agitated or making a noise, or needing some major cleaning up (as in soiled clothes, whatever) that is difficult to do with others around (or is offputting for others). And of course, if the patient is mobile, the patient may wander in and start commenting or objecting to strangers and so on. I expect, however, that if all the participants in this arrangement understand the patient’s limitations and are comfortable with it, that adjustment may be easier.
The other problem I could think of was, what if one of the persons invited to participate in this joint working did not fit? If that person insisted in chatting, or had a noisy way of working, or acted in ways that others did not like; how does one “expel” such a person without bitterness and unpleasantness? Who decides? How “equal” are the participants about such decisions? Could broken friendships result?
The concept this caregiver described is called “coworking”, though I had not known the word when she talked to me. Sharing such ideas, their pros and cons and practical implementation considerations, is exactly why we need caregiver forums.
It so happened that I was reading a book shortly after talking to this caregiver and I encountered this concept of coworking, an approach apparently being considered and used by many persons working from home.
The Wikipedia page is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coworking; an excerpt:
A 2007 survey showed that many employees worry about feeling isolated and losing human interaction if they were to telecommute. Roughly a third of both private and public-sector workers also reported that they didn’t want to stay at home during work. Coworking offers a solution to the problem of isolation that many freelancers experience while working at home, while at the same time letting them escape the distractions of home.
I guess there must be a body of knowledge and experience of people who have tried coworking. A quick search on Gogle showed me a group (http://groups.google.com/group/coworking, and a blog ( http://blog.coworking.com/ ) and of course, I have no idea how good or relevant these links are (against others that Google may lead me to). I also have no idea what is the best way to reach out and know more about making coworking work, but coworking definitely seems worth considering for people just entering the caregiver journey so that they don’t suffer as much isolation and can work for more years in a conducive productive and social environment.
So I thought I’d post the idea and also ask if any of you have any experience of trying it, and if you are a caregiver, then also any experience of how practical (or not) is it for you, and so on. Does it sound attractive enough to give a shot, and what pros and cons do you see?
Over to you.
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