How To Feel More Connected When You Work Remotely
I've been a remote worker for the past seven years, and while it's the best thing ever, it can also be the absolute worst. Being able to eliminate your commute and work in your comfy-cozy clothes is totally boss. However, if you work remotely, you might go days or even weeks at a time without actually speaking to anyone from your team. While some people love this kind of autonomy, for others it can be hella isolating.
And if you work at home alone, 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 for the week. The struggle is real, but the good news is that there are ways to feel more connected when you work remotely. Veronica Gilrane, people analytics manager of Google's People Innovation Lab, and her team surveyed more than 5,000 Google employees from around the world to find out how to make remote workers feel part of the team when they can't be with the team IRL.
"Outside of logistics, building relationships with teammates I don’t casually bump into in the hallway is a bit challenging," she wrote in an article about the results of the survey. "It feels natural to ask about after work plans or swap movie reviews when you’re meeting face to face, but it takes more effort to form that bond when you’re mostly seeing each other on a video screen." Same? Here's how to feel more connected to your team and the outside world.
Have Real Conversations With Your Co-Workers
Because remote workers are often left out of casual conversations at the office that allow people to get to know each other, Gilrane suggests setting aside some time at the beginning of team meetings to actually talk to one another. "Instead of jumping right into an agenda, allow some time at the top of the meeting for an open-ended question, like 'what did you do this weekend?' It’s an easy way to build remote connections and establish a rapport." This works because getting personal helps people feel seen and included.
Gallup's 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. 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, which can be a real problem for remote workers.
"The main way most of us are connected to our local, geographical communities is through work," remote worker Sean Blanda is quoted as saying in the Guardian. "When you remove that — when you’re not commuting, you don’t bump shoulders, you don’t meet the guy who happens to have a cousin on your block and now you’re friends — you have to work harder to feel connected."
Get Dressed And Get Out Of The House
If you'e an extrovert, being alone in your home for eight hours a day can be rough. Extroverts are more likely to go work in public at co-working spaces or coffee shops to avoid devolving into Fred Savage's character in season two of Friends From College when he quits his job to write a book. Spoiler alert, it doesn't go well. For introverts like me who like to work at home, it's more difficult to meet and feel connected to people in general, and working from home only adds to the problem. I get distracted working in coffee shops, and I cant afford a co-working space. This means I have to find other ways to stay connected.
If the company you work for is local, and you're feeling isolated, consider going into the office at least once a week to get some face time with your co-workers, Harvard Business Review recommended. If it's not, and your company never flies you in for meetings or events, or you're a freelancer, you can team up with a friend who also works remotely and work together once or twice a week.
My roommate works from home two days a week, and being able to have this interaction goes a long way toward helping me feel less isolated. There are also remote worker Meetup groups in many cities so you can make friends with other remote workers who share your struggle. In addition, consider using the networking app Shapr to meet other people in your field whom you might want to hang out with IRL.
Check In With Yourself Regularly
In addition to talking with co-workers on a personal level and actively engaging with other remote workers, check in with yourself regularly. If you're still feeling lonely and isolated, consider joining a gym or taking a fitness class so you can get out of the house a few times a week and see real people. Even if you don't talk to anyone, simply being around other humans can help make you feel more like you're part of the world.
If you've been wanting to get a dog, working from home is an ideal situation for pup parents. Not only are dogs great companions, walking your dog gets you out of the house, and you can also meet other pup parents at the dog park. Personally, walking my dog helps me break up my day, and it forces me get away from my computer and get some exercise.
To be frank, while I certainly don't regret deciding to work from home, it also takes an incredible amount of self control. If I'm not careful, I can easily revert to my feral state. If I find that I haven't worn anything but pajamas and yoga pants for an entire month, and I can count the people I've talked to IRL on one hand, I make myself get dressed, put on makeup, and go somewhere. It's important to know that if you feel isolated working from home, it's totally normal. Your manager might not even be aware that you don't feel included, so don't be afraid to speak up and ask for what you need.