By Alyssa Curran
There are many benefits to working from home. This includes the ability to take executive calls in your robe, work on a SWOT analysis in bed, have the cable repaired in the middle of the day, and best of all, to focus 100% without any interruptions. Despite the joy of rocking your 9-to-5 in your own cozy duds (why yes, yoga pants are totally professional), there are a few drawbacks: one of which is the disconnected feeling that comes from being alone in your office at least 40 hours a week.
While Event 360 is a virtual work environment for most of us (90% of Event 360 employees work from home), I’m lucky enough to be in proximity to several of my coworkers here in Los Angeles. One of the ways I beat the work-from-home blues is by connecting with my colleagues. Here’s how:
Step 1: Get together with people. Real, actual, people.
Even though our schedules are always jam-packed producing awesome events, we make time at least once a year to get together and hang out. Use a holiday to get everyone together for a fun lunch. Make a lunch date with your coworker and get together just to gab. It may not feel productive, but feeling connected and bonded to your coworkers boosts your productivity. If you don’t live near any of the other remote employees, schedule lunch dates with nearby friends who work in a similar industry. Getting out and about is key to not losing all of your in-person conversation skills because you only chat with your cat.
Step 2: Use technology for human interaction.
I strongly encourage the occasional use of a video call. Even if you’re business on the top, party on the bottom (c’mon – we’ve all done it – groomed your top half with a crisply ironed shirt, but kept the bottom half in yoga pants) it’s nice to see your coworkers’ smiling faces. It helps remind you that you’re both human and more than just a voice connected to a phone or a string of endless emails. Plus you can pick up on all of those visual cues, facial expressions and body language that emails can’t convey. I have a weekly check-in call with both my manager and my coordinator, and it’s great to catch up for a few minutes.
Step 3: If you’re comfortable going social… go social.
The boundary between work and life continues to blur, and depending on you and your coworkers’ comfort levels (and check your HR policies), choosing to be friends on social media can be a fun way to stay connected. Coworkers that you’re friendly with on your newsfeed can seem much closer than nine states away. On Facebook you can sort your friends into lists, so you can choose who sees what. So proceed cautiously when you’re posting something that’s only for your family or closest friends, and not work appropriate. Or develop separate social media accounts for work and your personal life.
Step 4: Don’t just talk about work.
The minute you run out of work-related things to discuss, does the phone line go silent? Avoid the crickets by making sure you still talk to your coworkers about actual real-life things that exist outside of your home office. For example, Event 360 is excellent about observing birthdays. On my birthday this year, a team leader sent out an email, and my inbox, instant messenger, and newsfeed were filled with birthday wishes. It made me feel like I was included in our group, and not just sitting at my desk in my robe by myself. When there’s time, try to start or end each call with a little off-topic chit-chat to keep your spirits up and build a personal connection with your coworkers.
Step 5: Make an effort.
It’s true that being remote is a solitary situation, but with a little bit of effort and creativity, you can make your work-from-home life as social as you need it to be. Meet friends for lunch breaks. Go to the gym. Randomly instant-message your coworker with a hilarious meme. Write a company newsletter. Form a virtual book club. Do a pop-up video chat on a coworker and make them do 10 jumping jacks. Being remote is all about flexibility — so don’t forget to flex your intrapersonal skills as well as your work skills.
Alyssa works on social media for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day®, a 60-mile walk to end breast cancer. When she’s not tweeting, “Liking”, or blogging, she’s crafting recipes in the kitchen, hiking, playing with her daughter, or buying more nail polish she doesn’t need. Tweet her on Twitter or link up with her on LinkedIn.