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You might already know that Skillcrush is fully remote company (we kind of can’t stop talking about it) and that the decision to be fully remote is what we found works best for us. When you’re considering applying for jobs that are remote, visions of calling in from a beach in Thailand or taking weekly work tours of your favorite coffee shops can quickly be replaced by anxiety around how exactly to make the dream into a reality. As a remote employee, one of the number one questions I get about the remote work life is: “Isn’t it isolating?. It has to be lonely sitting in your house all day, typing or coding or fielding video calls—right?”
If you’re nervous about the isolation of going remote after working in more traditional office environments, never fear. It’s really not a lonely life at all—trust me. Here’s my top five tips for making the remote life work—loneliness not included.
1. Get the Most Out of Your Communication
Working remotely doesn’t mean working alone, especially given that in my experience, a distributed workforce means more communication, not less. Without face-to-face, in-person interactions or the ability to pop by someone’s desk, it’s easier and hugely beneficial to over-communicate with teammates to avoid having things fall through the cracks. This is where you can rely on apps and tools made especially for communication: Hipchat, Slack, Stripe, Zoom, and Google Hangouts are all excellent options for instant messaging and video chats, which both become critical as you work remotely.
For me, finding a mix of chatting and video face time has been critical. For one thing, my team meets regularly (like, a few time a day) over video chat, giving us some access to each other’s non-verbal cues and the most robust communication we can make happen. Checking in like this means we’re never “alone” for too long. I also find that face-to-face communication—even through a computer screen—is ideal for conflict resolution, work sessions, or hashing out any other type of challenge. Instant messaging, on the other hand, is ideal for getting quick questions answered, sending uplifting .gifs, and idle work chatter. I don’t recommend doing too much actual “work” over instant messaging, but it fills in the gaps of being able to quickly pop by a desk or run into someone in the office kitchen.
2. Get Out of the House
No matter how much digital face time I get with my coworkers, I find that I still crave just the slightest amount of IRL personal interaction on a daily basis. And I really mean minimal. It’s remarkable what a difference it makes to simply talk to a barista or strike up a thirty second conversation with a table mate at my local coffee shop. While I definitely have a home office that I love, I find that taking my laptop to the coffee shop for a few hours every couple of days makes me feel much more connected to my fellow humans.
Not a coffee shop person? Consider your errands as a chance to talk to someone—anyone—for just a few seconds. The grocery store, the post office, and the laundromat are all opportunities for some extra quick communication.
3. Make After-Work Plans
If you prefer working in one location during the day, consider using mealtimes as a way to catch up with friends, socialize, and get out of the house/office. No need to break the bank on these outings—try finding friends who are interested in doing potluck meals or casual shared dinners, so that you can socialize without worrying about spending too much. Myself and several of my coworkers like to meet up with local friends for shared dinners, simple meals out, or just a drink and a hello a few nights a week, to get that in-person face time so many of us need.
Besides getting me out of the house and giving me an opportunity to catch up with a variety of friends, I like making casual dinner plans because it gives me a hard stop time for my workday. If dinner isn’t your style, find or found a book club, movie club, insert-your-interest-here club, and invite friends to join. This isn’t so much about filling your after work calendar with all kinds of social events as it is making sure you are consciously building in time to get the socializing you need in a thoughtful way. For some people, that means a regular potluck with friends. For others, maybe a rousing weekly installment of Dungeons and Dragons at someone’s house. It’s all about what you need.
4. Talk About More Than Just Work With CoWorkers
There’s a tendency—especially with remote work—for communication between coworkers to be less social and more transactional. After all, texting and emailing is great for keeping lines of communication open while knocking out project after project as a well oiled machine, but how does it work when you want to, you know, be someone’s friend? For this particular quandary, the answer is simple: Start sharing more. At Skillcrush, our teams all have private rooms where they can share updates about their weekend adventures, families, and other personal things that make us feel more connected (because we are). Heck, we even have a #random room on our chat system just for conversations about everything from Janelle Monae to the New York state gubernatorial elections.
Having space to share information about your personal life—and being encouraged by your work community to do so—goes a long way towards feeling more connected to your coworkers. Even the simple act of sharing a picture from your weekend or relaying a funny story about your pet helps your coworkers bond with you and will help you feel closer to them as well. And hey, next time you need to ask that person on another team for a favor, it really helps to have a shared anecdote or conversation to reference as an ice breaker.
5. Snack With Your Coworkers
If you worked in a co-located office (translation: one office with all of your coworkers), you’d likely take a quick break in the afternoon for a coffee with your desk mate every few days or eat lunch with your office BFF. You might even head out to happy hour at the end of the day with the whole team. But working remotely seems to lend itself to eating alone—or worse—working right through lunch.
It does not have to be this way. Sure, sometimes you just want to eat alone without needing to make conversation over your microwave lunch. But if you’re looking for some meal time companionship, go get it! I try to have lunch while video chatting with a coworker every so often—but what’s even easier to coordinate is a snack time. We’ll simply hop on video chat for fifteen minutes while downing a banana and a bag of chips and go over the day—or better yet—things that have absolutely nothing to do with work. It gets me invigorated to tackle the rest of the day, gives my eyes a break from the documents and spreadsheets I spend all day staring at, and lets me connect with a human being. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Really, the sky’s the limit when it comes to what kinds of team building events you can translate to a remote workplace. At Skillcrush alone, baby showers, movie nights, happy hours, and a myriad of other gatherings traditionally held in-person are easily held via video chat and made more accessible by apps, chat systems, and all kinds of other digital upgrades.
Remember that what initially excited you about remote work—the flexibility, the freedom, the ability to be your own boss—is still within reach. Every job requires some kind of juggling, and the beauty of working remotely is that you get to call the shots. And if you feel yourself panicking, just send an email, download a video chat system, or head to your local coffee shop. There are all kinds of ways to stay connected—and the remote work community is a welcome place to dive in to. What are you waiting for?