Isolation and a lack of social interaction are common concerns when people think about remote working. The word “remote” itself can conjure up ideas of loneliness and being disconnected from your colleagues. That is why we like the more empowering language of “Anywhere working”, with Anywhere representing an unconstrained, plugged-in destination. There are plenty of ways to stay sociable outside of the office. This article outlines some of the ways you can foster positive and lively communication with your team, how to form new connections outside of work, and the best ways to take advantage of the opportunities of working Anywhere.
Create a positive team culture
The easiest way to create a sociable atmosphere within your team is to encourage over-communication. In a distributed team, it can be easy to worry that you are bothering someone with comments or questions when you cannot physically see how busy they are.
By encouraging people to communicate frequently and hold regular video calls, it should create an environment where people feel comfortable to reach out to each other to ask quick questions or to have longer discussions, just as you would in an office.
As it can be difficult to interpret tone and nuance over text chat, it is worth being mindful of how other people might perceive your writing. Things like emojis, exclamation marks, or GIFs can help to make your written communication sound friendlier, when appropriate. If you are discussing topics where you anticipate more debate or critiques, video calls can be more useful than text chats to conduct discussions in a clear, polite and productive manner.
You could also create a virtual ‘water cooler’ in your team – an agreed time, chat stream, video call, or general expectation to engage in non-work chat. You could have set discussion themes, encourage people to share funny news stories or items from social media, or any other informal conversation topics.
However you choose to do it, make sure that everyone can contribute and that conversations can evolve naturally as they would in person. The more you do this, the more your team will feel connected, comfortable and sociable.
Meet up with others in your area
Try to meet up with some of your distributed teammates or others in your company if they live in your area. You could hold regular ‘office days’ in a hired or shared space if there is a group of you, or simply meet up with one or two colleagues in a coffee shop if you don’t need a dedicated office location. Spending a day here and there with your teammates can be a useful way to bond and collaborate. If none of your colleagues live nearby, sites like Meetup.com or Eventbrite are great for finding social and networking events in your area. You could attend events related to your industry, meet-ups aimed at those who work Anywhere, or broader events aimed at people working in a variety of sectors. Attending events like these can help you form connections with a wide range of people, and can create an experience similar to bumping into others in your building in a traditional office.
If you feel you need more routine and prefer a more traditional working environment, a co-working space might be best for you. Many co-working spaces hold their own networking events where you can meet the people you are working with, and it can be a useful opportunity to have spontaneous conversations with workers who might also want to form new connections. The growing popularity of co-working spaces with their own distinct characteristics means you should be able to find one that best fits your preferred working environment.
Talk to other Anywhere workers online
If you aren’t able to physically meet up with other people who are working Anywhere, there are plenty of online resources that can help you to connect with others.
Use Facebook, LinkedIn or Slack groups to find people for ‘virtual networking’. You might even be able to organize your own face-to-face event with some of the people you meet.
Groups like these mean you can still make meaningful connections and share tips about your experiences of working Anywhere, no matter where you are located.
Turn exercise into a team activity
A lack of exercise is common concern among Anywhere workers. Despite the freedom of working Anywhere, it can be tempting to succumb to the convenience of working at home, which in turn can lead to a lack of physical activity.
One way to combat this issue is to turn exercise into a sociable team activity. Setting team challenges like running goals or step-count challenges is a fun way to engage with your team and stay healthy at the same time.
You could also take advantage of the fact that you won’t be coming home from work exhausted after a lengthy commute, and use your extra time and energy to join exercise classes or local sports teams. These are excellent ways to meet new people and stay sociable while keeping fit.
Bring your team together through experiences
If possible, try getting together with your team in-person for something like an annual meet-up.
Bringing everyone together to one location is ideal, but you could also organize more localized meet-ups between smaller groups of people if long-distance travel isn’t an option. Holding these events is a great way to help people bond with each other and can aid future communication between team members.
If physically bringing people together is too impractical or expensive, you could try organizing an Anywhere ‘experience day’ for your team. This involves giving people in your team a day off to take part in an activity of their choice in their own area, then having them share descriptions and photos of their day with the group. This way, people can bond over shared interests and experiences, and helps your team members to connect even when they can’t meet face-to face.
Create a positive culture – Hold video calls, engage in non-work chat, and practice friendly communication
Meet other people who are working Anywhere – Visit Eventbrite.com, Meetup.com, or search for groups on Facebook, LinkedIn or Slack
Bring the team together with non-work related fun – See Fitbit.com or find more ideas for challenges here