Overcoming that remote worker isolation thing.
For a lot of people, arguably most millennials at least, remote working is the dream; No more getting up at silly o’clock to get ready for the day ahead, no more hailstones punishing you for last nights “Ah screw it, it’s been a long day” takeaway on your walk to the tube, no more suspiciously sweaty for this time in the morning armpits in your face on the overcrowded train, no more… you get the idea.
My point is this, being a remote worker gets around all of these day-to-day inconveniences, and it leads to a happier and more productive life. Some label themselves a Digital Nomad, travelling the world working from wherever it is they find themselves that day.
It all sounds just swell, doesn’t it?
There’s a catch. If you’re anything like me, you’re not the most social of people, and that’s where the problem with remote working lies.
Before becoming a remote worker you used to enjoy going to the office each day, hanging out with your colleagues at lunch, having a cheeky chit chat in the guise of work from time to time. You didn’t need a social life outside of work because work was your social life. You didn’t need any more interaction than that to keep you happy.
Now if you remove that office, you’re left with you - just you. You start your day in a nice chilled state of mind, still in your pants because why the heck not? hair scruffy, makeup smudged. You fire up your mac and begin the days work. You’re on fire for the first couple of hours, unstoppable even. But then things start to slow a little, you feel you could use a little break. Okay it’s coffee time. This would be around the time you’d have a quick nip around the office asking your colleagues if they would like to share in your brew making talents.
Not now though. Now it’s just you.
You finish up for the day and settle down for the evening ahead. You reminisce the times you used to go for a quick drink with your work friends at the end of the day.
That was fun.
So now you’re sat on your sofa, alone, streaming a few episodes of Mr Robot because you feel that on some level, you can really relate.
You long for a partner, someone to, y’know, share life with. You open up Tinder and start to flick through potential matches. Nope, nope, woah — they’ll never pick me, meh, yes, yes, YES.
It’s now that it dawns on you just what your problem is - you haven’t left the house, you haven’t even spoken today.
How the hell are you going to meet people if you have no reason to leave the house?
It’s almost midnight, time for bed you guess. Aside from that email to your Aunt Gert, and a couple fending off those no good recruiters, you’ve spoken to no one.
It’s easy to get in to this cycle as a remote worker, and for all its pro’s, unless you’re an extrovert, particularly social, and have a roster of out-of-the-house hobbies, the biggest con is that your interaction with the world is somewhat limited. This is what isolation feels like.
Overcoming this isolation can be tough, but it’s doable, and with little effort when you break it down into simple steps.
The first thing I would do is ask your fellow remote workers to join you on Slack, if you don’t already have one on the go. Or failing that join an open Slack community where people chat about something you’re genuinely interested in. This may not do much to shake that isolated feeling because it’s so, well, faceless, but it’s definitely a good place to start.
I would encourage your team to take a look at Sneek. Sneek allows you to see your team mates just as you would if you worked from a single office. It uses your web cam to take a snap of you every so often, and displays that snap for your team mates to see. You can also start a video chat with anyone, or everyone, instantly. Just seeing those faces goes a long, long way to killing that feeling of isolation.
For the sake of transparency, I should note that Sneek is a start up that I and my colleagues at Analog Republic have been developing.
Now you’ve taken steps to improve interaction in your working day, it’s time to tackle your out-of-office hours.
Head over to meetup.com. This for me was the single major thing that really kicked out isolation from my remote working lifestyle. The site allows you to look for events in your local area, events that will peak your interest, challenge your thoughts, and provide that all important interaction. Of course you still have to be proactive and talk with people when you get to these events, but this’ll get you in amongst the right people.
Step Four (An optional bonus step)
It’s time to find that someone you’d like to share life’s precious moments with.
If you carry out steps one through three, you may find this one gets a little easier, as you now have opened yourself up to a whole bunch more interaction than before, but equally, the chances of a partner simply presenting themselves to you are a little slim.
We’re in the internet age, so don’t be afraid to get yourself on dating sites. There was a time where this was perhaps seen as sad and a little shameful, but those days are over. Okay so Tinder probably isn’t the best (though it is how I met my lady friend), but there are plenty of other well established dating sites boasting sophisticated algorithms to get you all loved up. All you’ll have to do is sort your hair and well, actually go on a date or two.
I wrote this article based on my personal experiences with remote working, and how that had an affect on my interaction with the world. I realise not everyone will share the same experiences, but I do hope that anyone who finds themselves in a similar position, finds this article to be useful to them in some way.