Working Remotely? You Still Need to Socialize

 

Remote work can be seen as one of the solutions to a number of global challenges, but it is clear that human beings are not wired to live alone - we evolve in groups and have a strong need for social interaction and approval. One study found that people with a “best friend” at work were seven times more likely to be engaged in their jobs. Furthermore, those who said they had friends at work felt more productive, stayed at their jobs longer, and reported higher job satisfaction.

Despite the benefits from higher productivity and flexibility of remote work, many suffer side-effects: professionals elect loneliness as one of the biggest struggles to working remotely. There is not a universal solution, however, since we all have different needs and preferences regarding social interaction: some people love working long periods alone, others might feel the need to interact with others through out the day. Depending on your situation and your personality, you will need to customize a solution that works for you.

Here we share some tips to fight the loneliness and isolation as a remote worker.

Interact using messaging tools and social media.

Nowadays there are thousands of communities being formed to bring people together: Slack communities, Facebook groups, community forums and many more. These will never replace human interaction, but can nevertheless be an alternative to meet other professionals and feel connected to a community. We encourage you to try a few out until you find a good fit.

If you are part of a team, using a group instant messaging system (like Slack or HipChat) is a must. It works as a "virtual water cooler" where you can talk about everything, and the fast and simple interaction helps colleagues communicate better as a group and it builds a sense of team at the same time.

Turn the cameras on.

A highly underestimated tool to tackle the feeling of disconnection are video calls. If more than 90% of our communication is non-verbal, setting five minutes a day to say hello to someone with the camera on is a great way to help people feel more connected - you can not only listen to their tone of voice, but also see their facial expressions and body language. There are lots of options for video collaboration these days: Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Skype to name just a few. And remember, it doesn’t always have to be work related - you can also have virtual lunches and coffees!

Work around others at the office or outside your house.

When you feel the need to be physically around other people, the best way to do that is to leave your workplace. Going for a walk or exercising already helps to ease the feeling of isolation. You can also consider moving to a coworking space or working from coffee shops and libraries once in a while - you will be surrounded by people and can easily meet new people and interact during work breaks.

For those who are employed and could commute to the office, one option is to shift remote days to office days, testing and experimenting to find their "sweet-spot" that balances productivity and social interaction. Manager can also establish “in-the-office” days, when remote employees are encouraged to come in. According to a Gallup poll of 9,917 employed U.S. adults, remote workers that come in to work at least once per week are the happiest. These “mostly” remote workers report a slightly higher rate of engagement, but more importantly, they were more likely than full-remote or full-office workers to say they had a best friend at work, and that their job included opportunities to learn and grow.

Find and join a mastermind group.

A mastermind is, in simplest terms, a group of people coming together regularly who are dedicated to mutual growth and improvement. Figuring out how to organize your time, stay accountable, and execute everything from outside the office without having people to talk to and bounce ideas around with can be one of the hardest parts of working remotely.

In practice, it brings together all of the previous tools to fight isolation: You communicate and share with other members regularly, take part on highly interactive video meetings, and brainstorm and discuss professional challenges as a team, with a big focus on support and accountability. Mastermind groups, unlike open and public social groups, provide a safe environment that allows yourself to be more open and vulnerable with your peers. 

Investing in building strong relationships might be the most important thing remote professionals need to live and work better. No man is an island, and in the long-term all areas of your life are better off when you take care of your mental health and reach out for others.

 
Danilo Kreimer