One of the problems many home-based business people face is that of isolation. Having worked from home for the past 20 years, I know from personal experience that being alone day in day out isn't good for the soul and also it isn't good for your business. As humans we are social beings – even the most introverted need personal contact at some stage in the day.
The Homepreneur survey of 550 people who work from home shows that almost 40% see isolation as one of the main challenges they face.
Building the Homepreneur community is all about connecting people online. Holding the Hoffice co-working is to help local home-based people connect face-to-face. I attended the Freelance Heroes Conference back in May and am attending the National Freelancers Day next week.
Yesterday, following a link posted in our Facebook group, I went to the British Academy Summer Showcase 2018 – a festival of ideas for curious minds. I was particularly excited to meet Dr Helen McCarthy, a historian at Queen Mary University of London and soon to be a Lecturer in Modern British History at the University of Cambridge.
Helen has collaborated with Leonora Saunders, a photographer and artist to capture images of modern home-based working women in a historic setting. So working from home is nothing new. The images and research, with the title #TheseFourWalls, demonstrates that women have earned a living from a wide range of different trades and professions, including:
- the seamstress of Victorian Britain and in the 1970s and 80s
- chainmakers of the Black Country in the Midlands
- doctors who set up from home as male prejudice made it difficult for them to practice in traditional ways
- home-based component assembly during war time
- home-selling multi-level marketing and franchise opportunities
- child minding
- virtual assistants and remote workers
- mumpreneurs of the late 20th century and beyond
Helen appears with her two daughters in the portrait above, depicting the female authors of the early 20th century. Her quote in the brochure reflects the findings in the Homepreneur survey. Namely, the challenges of summoning up your motivation, being on hand to run other people's errands, and switching off at the end of the day and enjoying the ‘life' part of work-life balance.
The lesson I draw from the exhibition was that many of the problems faced by women home-workers in Victorian Britain are still experienced today, although the majority of us work in far more comfortable surroundings using technology to minimise the drudgery of routine work. Whilst it is perceived that working from home gives you freedom, the reality is that many people in this position work extremely long hours for less than their employed counterparts. But that's another story!
Personally, I am delighted to have made a personal connection with an academic in the field and hope to cross paths with her in the future when she publishes her third book: Double Lives: A History of Working Motherhood in Modern Britain.