We can really focus and get a lot done in our productive workspaces, but we have to be careful about not holing up for days and isolating ourselves from the outside world. We all have different needs when it comes to being social. Some people, like me, love working on our own. Others like the buzz of being around others in a coffee shop or coworking space. Regardless of our preferences, remote workers need to be actively focused on getting enough social activity.
Welcome to the Collaboration Superpowers podcast. My name is Lisette and I’m interviewing people and companies doing great things remotely. Hello, everybody, and welcome to episode number 137. We’re full on into spring now, and as much as I love spring, what also comes with spring is for me, allergy. So if you hear some sniffling along the way, that’s just me enjoying the spring.
Today I want to focus on a topic that comes up a lot in the remote working world. I hear from a lot of remote workers that people feel lonely and disconnected when they’re working on their own. One of my colleagues and friends, Jenn, who is in the U.K. right now, she wrote to me over Christmas and said that she’d been working so hard that she felt her social skills had begun to dwindle, and that’s what I do in episode about how to keep up on your social skills when working remote. So yes, it took me until April, but Jenn, this episode is for you. How to stay social while working remotely?
Now if you’re working from home or from anywhere, really, the number one rule of being social is you’ve got to leave the house. And I know it sounds really simple, but I think it’s a good reminder. You’ve definitely got to get up and leave the house. Even if you just leave the house to go on exercise, even that can help. However, we all know that there are lots of places that we can work besides our home, which is many go to coffee shops. There are a lot of co-working options available. And, in fact, I’ll give you some of the co-working sites here where you can find co-working spots all over the world, and that is CoWorking.Coffee. There’s also coworkingmap.org, desksurfing.net, and workfrom.co. I’ve also got a few others listed on my website. So if you just go to collaborationsuperpowers.com/remote and scroll down sort of near the bottom of the page, you can find a whole listing of co-working spaces and websites where you can find co-working spaces. I mean if you’re feeling social and you need to get work done, a co-working space is a great option. Something that my husband does, actually, is he goes to client offices and works there for the day. So even if he’s not working on any particular problem for that client, he’ll just go sit in their office and work on other things, and it helps build the relationship and gives him a place to work. Sometimes he’s on the road and he just needs to be somewhere in between.
Another thing that people do is that they get together and rent an office together. That would be different than in a co-working space where you can’t really set up your own, permanent equipment. If you rent an office together with friends, you can set up all the monitors, have a comfortable chair, get your favorite coffee, and be surrounded by people that you know.
And then the last thing in terms of leaving the house that I recommend for people is meetups. Meetup.com is a fantastic place to meet people around topics that you’re interested in, and those exist all over the world. So meetup.com, that’s kind of an obvious one. And actually, one more because I think people forget this, which is if you’re looking for a place with people but you don’t necessarily want to be social, you want things to be quiet, don’t forget that library still exists and they’re free to go into. So definitely give that a try.
Okay, those were all the leave-the-house options. But if you want to stay home or if you want to stay wherever you are, in the place that you are, and you’re still wanting to feel social, I recommend turning your video cameras on whenever you interact with your team members or clients from around the world. Just turning the video on and seeing other people being able to talk to other people is a great way of being social. In fact, there are some days when I have five hours of video meetings in a day. And by the end of the day, I’m completely worn out and need some alone time, even though I’m just sitting here in my own home office. But having that video on really does engage and feel like you’re around people.
Now if you want to take that one step further, you can find permanent collaboration partners. So now in the programming world, this has been happening for years and years. They call it pair programming, and that’s when two developers will work on a piece of code at the same time. Usually, one will write and the other reviews. And it’s not always just limited to two either. You can also do it with more people. But in general, it’s called pair programming. And lots of people report that it’s very social, which I can imagine because you’re on the line with each other and working on something together.
So many of you know that about five years ago, I started working with a woman in California. We were writing a book together for a company that built private, social networks. And every day at 6 p.m. my time in the Netherlands and 9 a.m. her time in California, we would get online and use Skype. And we turn the video on for the first five minutes and just checked in and said hello. And then we turn the video off and continue talking on Skype while writing in a Google Doc. And that’s how we wrote the book together. And it took about a year and a half. And over that time, we ended up becoming really good friends.
So when the project ended and the book was finished, we decided we liked working together so much that we were going to just continue with our daily work sessions but just work on our own projects. And five years later, to this day, in fact, I just saw Gretchen last night. To this day, Gretchen and I are still basically virtually co-working together. So we’ve got the video off. We’ve got Skype on. We’re just working on our own projects. And sometimes we’ll just say like “Hey, Gretchen, can I run this blog post by you? I’m really stuck on some particular phrasing. Can you give me some tips?” It’s as if she were in my home office with me, but she’s actually in California.
Now if you want to take this virtual co-working concept one step further, you can. Many of you know about the Virtual Team Talk group, and that is basically a Slack group made up of all kinds of people who are talking about virtual teams. You’re welcome to join that if you wish. Just go to virtualteamtalk.com and scroll down and you’ll find a form at the bottom. Many of us also work together in a virtual co-working space called Sococo. And there are people from all over the world that come in and use the space and do some work. So I’m in there. There are a couple of guys from Texas who are in there. Pilar Orti comes in there all the time. There is a lean coffee every other Thursday. So it works just like a co-working space except for we’re all joining from the comforts of our own homes, which is something that I personally, really love because I love working from my home office. But I still like to be social. So this co-working space gives me the opportunity to have the best of both worlds, which is great, right? You want to have your cake and eat it too.
And the best part is everybody is invited. So if you’re listening to this podcast and you’re interested, please just go to virtualteamtalk.com and sign up for the Virtual Team Talk group. It’s all free. You’re welcome to join the co-working space for free. We’re just experimenting and playing with all the different things we can do.
The last thing that I want to talk about in terms of being social and how to be social in working remotely is for better or for worse, the Internet is an awesome place to interact and be social. You can find a group for everything. Any interest you have, no matter how obscure you think you are, there are others out there who are just like you, and you an find them on the Internet. I mean I can’t tell you the number of people that I’ve met over Twitter and over LinkedIn and over Facebook. And not just met but actually formed a relationship with. People that I talk to on a regular basis, whom I’ve never met in person. So it is possible to be social and to really engage on social media. I mean that is what it’s all about. So don’t forget that that is an avenue. I think sometimes we just take it for granted that it’s there.
Okay, but to summarize, my top tips for how to stay social while working remotely, one, leave the house. Go to a co-working space, coffee shop. Work from clients, meetups, libraries, all of those things. Jus leave the house. Get out and be amongst people.
Number two, turn your cameras on when you’re working with colleagues and clients. Number three, find collaboration partners or join a virtual co-working space. And number four, engage with others on social media.
Okay, I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode. I hope there have been some great tips for how to keep up your social skills. And I hope that you will engage with me on social media. Please find me online. I love connecting with people. I love hearing your stories. You can find everything you need at collaborationsuperpowers.com. And if you want to get all of my best practices, tips, and stories from the interviews that I’m doing, then please sign up on the mailing list. Every other week, we’ll send you great stuff directly to your inbox. A huge thanks to the producer of this podcast, Nick Jaworski. He is the reason this podcast sounds so pro. You can hire him to make you a star at podcastmonster.com. And another big thanks to the dazzling graphic designer Alfred Boland. You can hire him to make you look cool at bolanden.nl. All right, everybody. Until next week, let’s get out of the house and get our social on and be powerful.
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