Together Alone: How to Feel Connected While Working Remotely
Digital nomadism, remote work, location independence — whatever you want to call it, it’s hot right now. COVID has changed what “the office” means and people around the world are waking up to the exciting new possibilities that working on the go can provide.
Since packing my life into bags and leaving my home in Brighton in 2020, I’ve been experiencing first-hand what it means to live and work nomadically. From the rolling hills of Somerset to the rocky cliffs of Portugal; I’ve logged-on on the Costa del Sol and conference-called from Kathmandu. There’s no doubt that remote working can allow digital workers to feel like they have it all – freedom, adventure and a constantly-shifting carousel of sights and sounds to go along with it.
But in a world of digital desk hopping, how easy is it to stay connected? And what’s the emotional impact of logging-on remotely? In other words: how do you have a presence when you aren’t… well, present?
- More flexibility and autonomy can mean more job satisfaction and less stress.
- So long, morning commutes! See ya later, office distractions! The absence of these can lead to more productivity and time for self-care.
- Better work-life balance means having more control over your schedule and – for me – more time with family and friends.
- Studies show that happy workers are more productive, creative and loyal. Allowing employees the freedom to combine work and play makes them more engaged with the business and far more likely to stay!
- Remote work can lead to social isolation and loneliness, especially if you’re living alone or in a new place without familiar faces.
- Lack of face-to-face communication can lead to misunderstandings or miscommunications, resulting in frustration and stress.
- Difficulty separating work and personal life can make you feel burnout & impact your digital wellbeing
- Working on the go can leave you caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, sometimes literally! There’s a whole host of travel complications that can eat up your time and energy and leave you feeling ready for bed just as everyone else in the team is logging on to start the day!
6 Tips For Staying More Connected
Here are a few tips that have helped me to feel connected with my team, even when I’m three time zones away.
1. Make time for each other
You may be worlds-away, but regular face-to-face time can make you feel a whole lot closer. Catch up on business developments, strategy and all the important stuff for sure, but don’t forget to make time for a virtual cuppa and some personal checking in too.
Handy hint: Save the boasting for the ‘gram’ and use this time to find out how everyone is doing back home. Rather than parading a spectacular sunset in the background, find somewhere neutral for video calls or you risk alienating the very people you’re trying to feel more connected to.
2. Show up for the important things
Birthdays, babies, anniversaries, retirements… In a conventional office environment it seems like someones popping out to Marks’s for a ‘Colin the Caterpillar’ cake every other Friday to celebrate something. So make time to show your face, albeit virtually, and raise a glass to celebrate those achievements.
3. Keep your schedule clear and simple
If you’re working internationally, the fundamental question that needs to be addressed is this: Do you need to be online on UK or [insert your country here] time? If so, how much? It can be easy to kid yourself that you’re going to spend your days sea kayaking through a marine park only to log on at 4pm and put in a solid 8-hours work, but the reality is you’re only human and if you don’t have to do that everyday then, well, you won’t! So don’t overpromise and underdeliver. Instead, create a clear schedule of days you’re available within a tool like ‘Slack’, try to keep it roughly the same each week and if possible, maintain a mix of mornings/afternoons/full days where you can be contacted.
4. Instant messaging
Speaking of ‘Slack’, it’s not only helpful for making it crystal clear when you’re available for work-related queries (and when you’re not, without putting a passive aggressive point on the matter), but it’s also excellent for instant messaging, voice notes, attachments and comments which allow for effortless inter-continental communication.
Speaking of voice notes, they’re my new favourite way of getting my thoughts across simply because hearing my teammates voices always brings a smile to my face. Don’t underestimate the impact of letting people hear you. It also cuts down on any misinterpretation that’s oh so easily accomplished with a text message.
5. Collaborate and be involved
Collaboration in the digital age can be about so much more than just showing up to Zoom meetings. There are so many tools you can adopt as a team which allow you to collaborate on projects by leaving feedback, creating and issuing tasks for each other and demonstrating your engagement. If nothing else, take the time to catch up on a teammate’s presentation/demonstration/report after the fact and give them your take on it. If you have a team full of ‘lone wolves’ who don’t actually want direct collaboration, then maybe you can attend virtual social events, coffee breaks or online games instead. Just make sure you keep your pina colada and bikini-bottoms off camera…
6. Take breaks and attend local activities
Being on a different time zone to your colleagues provides even more freedom to work the hours that work for you. Personally, I like to get up early and fit in 3-4 hours while everyone at home is still sleeping, then take a break and attend some kind of activity so that I can talk to some actual real living humans. Cooking classes, yoga, local language lessons, line-dancing, anything really to get me up and out and talking to people for a couple of hours.
Afterwards, I put in another 3-4 hours in the afternoon before calling it a day so that I can enjoy my evening wherever I may find myself. This doesn’t always work for me, sometimes I end up working late into the night to keep on top of everything and wondering what it’s all for. But freeing up my weekend to explore a brand new place makes it all worthwhile!
So there you have it, my personal hacks for staying connected while disconnecting from the daily grind. It’s not always easy, but I have to say it’s (almost) always worth it.
Do you have any tips on staying connected in a remote working world? We’d love to hear from you! Follow us on Instagram to join the conversation.