While there are a lot of advantages to being a remote worker, there are also plenty of downsides. Being able to eliminate your commute and work from home in your comfy-cozy clothes is undeniably great. However, if you work remotely, you might go days or even weeks at a time without actually speaking aloud to anyone from your team. While some people love this kind of autonomy, for others it can be really isolating.
Gallup's 2017 State of the American Workplace report noted that 43% of people in the U.S. work remotely at least part of the time — that's a lot of lonely workers. If you work from home, you've likely experienced an entire day (or more) where you don't speak to anyone but yourself, your pets, and the cashier at the corner store when you buy your after-work bottle(s) of rosé.
The struggle is real. And if you’re suddenly working from home when you’re used to being in an office? It can be even realer.
Cristina Roman, certified life coach and productivity consultant at Pique Coaching, points out that it can be hard to get a person’s real meaning when you can’t see their body language or hear their tone. With that in mind, she suggests always assuming good intent and giving your coworkers the benefit of the doubt.
“Remember that even your manager might be at a loss for how to keep the team focused and connected during this time, so it’s a great opportunity to speak up, make suggestions, and vocalize requests,” Roman tells Bustle. “Just be sure to check in with yourself before hitting send: Is your communication reactive and fear-based or is it coming from a thoughtful, grounded place?”
Humans are social animals and working from home can put a real damper on that natural instinct. But the good news is that there are ways to feel more connected when you work remotely.
Have Real Conversations With Your (Remote) Coworkers From Home
Because remote workers are often left out of casual conversations at the office that allow people to get to know each other, try setting aside some time at the beginning of team meetings to actually talk to one another. Start a meeting with a more social question, like “What did you do this weekend?’” before getting right to business.
Personally, because writing is a solitary job by nature, being able to hop on the phone with co-workers a few times a week and discuss projects and have a little friendly conversation has been extremely helpful for me. It makes me feel more connected to my team, gets me excited about the work we're doing together, and makes me feel less isolated.
When You're Working From Home, Schedule A “Walk And Talk”
Roman suggests getting some socialization and some exercise by turning a phone call into a “walk and talk.”
“Turn a scheduled phone call into a walking meeting so that you can get some fresh air and get your blood pumping,” Roman previously told Bustle. “I recommend asking the other person if they’re comfortable with you taking the call while on a walk, then putting in headphones that don’t pick up a lot of background noise and pulling up Evernote so that you can jot down any action items or ideas as you walk.”
Do Some Remote Coworking
Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you can’t work together. That’s the beauty of living in the age of high-speed wifi and video teleconferencing.
“Get a group of friends or coworkers together on Zoom video and set mutually-agreed upon rules,” Roman says. “Then, do a quick round robin where you each share what result you’ll have by the end of an hour. Set a timer for 60 minutes, mute yourselves, and go heads down for the hour, checking in at the end for accountability. Repeat as needed.”
Have Online Water-Cooler Convos In Your DIY Home Office
Even if your office doesn’t have an actual water-cooler, you have water-cooler convos. They’re the casual small talk that naturally happens when you run into someone around the office. But when you work from home, you might find that your only water-cooler convos are with your cat. You can change that.
"Instant message or video call a colleague you haven’t had a chance to chat up with in real life for awhile," marriage and family therapist Michelle Lozano, LMFT, previously told Bustle. "This can check two boxes of keeping you socializing, but also keeping up with connections that are valuable. My partner who is a consultant that frequently works from home calls these 'water cooler convos.'”
It's important to know that if you feel isolated working from home, it's totally normal. But with a few minor tweaks to your lifestyle, you can truly have it all: Working in comfy-cozy clothes and a social life.
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