The first time I worked remotely on a team was an adjustment. It felt like I had to re-learn how to work: how to connect with others, how to structure my day, how to stay engaged and feel part of the team. Over time and with some creativity, the things I used to do with the team, if changed slightly, could still work. Here are some of the lessons I learned.
1. Continue casual collaboration.
While you don’t physically sit in the same space as your co-workers, you still sit within the same infrastructure, just virtually. Use the tools you now have at your disposal for collaboration. Instead of walking over to your co-worker’s desk, think of their computer as the new “desk” and knock on the virtual door. For example, within Teams, the little bubble next to my teammate’s name shows if she is busy, in a meeting, free, away, etc. Instead of scheduling another meeting on our already packed calendars, when her indicator shows she is free, I send an IM, asking for a couple of minutes to quickly collaborate on something we are working on. I “knock” on her virtual door.
2. Change the way you commute.
Before working remotely, I had a routine, which included the drive to and from work and regular trips to run errands. Working remotely changed how much I ventured out of the house, which led to feeling isolated. It became too easy to order online and have it delivered versus getting in my car and venturing out to the store. Here are some things to add interaction with others back into your schedule:
- Replace your commute time with a walk around the block.
- Use that commute time, get in your car and take a scenic drive.
- Get back to running your errands in person and walk back into a store.
3. Turn on your video.
As an executive coach, I regularly observe behavior. One thing I’ve noticed is that most people aren’t comfortable turning on their cameras in virtual meetings. We feel okay being in person in the room, but when we see ourselves on screen, we become shy and change our behavior. I am not immune to this phenomenon. The silver lining is that I’ve also noticed that once you work through the discomfort, you can once again, have a natural interaction as you had in person. Here are some tricks that I’ve adopted:
- Get ready as if you were going into the office. Even if it’s only from the waist up (you can still wear your fuzzy slippers).
- If you use Zoom, right-click on your picture and hide your view.
- If you use Teams, use something to cover your picture on the screen. I’ve used physical Post-It notes, on-screen Sticky Notes, or the calculator.
- Change your background or use the filters available. This may even invite a conversation with others and break the “video ice”. One that sparks conversation for me is the beach background because we all start dreaming about that next vacation.
4. Schedule social time.
You no longer run into others while grabbing coffee in the break room or inviting someone to go out to lunch. In the remote environment, there is more temptation to fill the time with work versus infusing social interaction into the day. While you can’t physically go to lunch together, you can invite someone to a virtual lunch or go grab a coffee and take a break. We all need regular mental breaks to maintain our effectiveness. Make the time to take the break and keep building connections.
What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for remote employees who are feeling isolated? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss'ers!
This article was written by a Fairygodboss contributor.
Kristy is an executive coach and talent management consultant, who is known for helping individuals, teams and organizations reach their optimal potential, one conversation at a time. What is your Next conversation? Check out Next Conversation Coaching to see how she can help you today.