They say that no man (or person) is an island. But while that may be true in a general sense, it’s hard to take at face value when you work from home. Telecommuting can feel like a solitary existence.
Those who work remotely often feel as though they’re on their own, only connecting with clients, coworkers, and management through the impersonal touch of their personal computers. In fact, in a 2015 survey of telecommuters, the most often identified disadvantage of working remotely was “office alienation” and feeling disconnected.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t also a number of advantages — to employers as well as employees — associated with telecommuting. Telecommuters are generally more productive than office-bound employees, and also display higher satisfaction with their jobs. Employers of telecommuters end up saving on average $11,000 per remote worker, per year.
But despite these benefits, there’s still that issue of not feeling like part of a team. The good news is that, with determination and the right technologies, any telecommuter can remain connected, communicative, and invested in the social office dynamic. If you find yourself feeling ostracized as a result of working remotely, here are three valuable tips to help you build and maintain your work relationships from a distance.
1. Establish core work hours
You may not be in the office very often, but that shouldn’t mean that you aren’t available. Your managers and coworkers should know when they can get a hold of you, when you’ll be completing projects, and approximately how long they can expect it take for you to respond to emails or other communications.
For this to be possible, you’ll need to establish and keep some core work hours. Instead of just pulling up to your computer and working on projects whenever the mood hits you, create a schedule for yourself and stick to it. Share that schedule with the rest of your company, and make sure they know that even though they may not be able to see you, you’re there and you’re part of the machine. When your teammates know that they can depend on you on the other end of the line, they’ll recognize you as an integral part of the business.
2. Use technology to your advantage
When it comes to communicating effectively with coworkers, email and telephone are only the beginning. Thanks to new technologies, a full range of collaboration tools are available to facilitate better office relationships. For example, collaboration tools such as Azendoo offer an informal, friendly platform where teammates can converse and share files via an extremely accessible dashboard. This promotes not only the effective allocation of information, but also ongoing conversation.
And for those times when face-to-face interaction is the way to go, teleconferencing tools such as those provided by GoToMeeting give teleworkers the benefits of in-person communication from a distance. Set up conferences with a single click, transfer presenters, share screens, record important meetings, and do it all via HD video feeds. You can even conduct or attend webinars, with both live and pre-recorded options available. With the right communication tools, you make sure that you have a real presence in the office, even if you’re not in the office.
3. Get Involved
Although coworkers certainly bond while working together on projects, relationships really tend to develop when work isn’t the main focus. Chatting in break rooms, laughing across cubicles, even gossiping at the water cooler - these are all non-work activities that help teammates connect on a personal level. These are also activities that telecommuting employees generally don’t get to experience. How to overcome this? Well, it can be difficult. Making the effort to visit the office in person for important events (such as company-wide meetings and celebrations) can certainly help, but sometimes it just isn’t possible.
A simpler solution is to take the initiative and create a bit of chit chat. Join telemeetings early enough to be able to shoot the breeze with other participants. Jump onto Azendoo when conversations are happening and keep things moving. Most people are more than happy to talk about themselves and their interests, so ask them questions and get them talking. Pose fun hypothetical scenarios or share interesting experiences. The more you converse, the more familiar you will become to your team, and the easier your relationships will develop.
Just because you don’t work in an office, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t be a part of the office dynamic. Follow these three suggestions and make the effort to create strong, lasting relationships with your teammates, and you’ll get to enjoy the best of both worlds - the freedom of working from home, plus the camaraderie of working in house.
After all, no employee is an island, and that goes double for the remote ones.
Guest author : This article is a guest post by Lewis Robinson, a consultant and freelance writer specializing in streamlining business processes with business technology. He is the former founder and CEO of a small software company. You can reach him on his LinkedIn profile