Credit: Tortugadatacorp

How to Thrive As An Extrovert In the Isolation of Remote Working

Over the last few years there has been a steady rise in the number of remote workers worldwide. In 2018, the number of remote workers shot up an additional 11.7%, the largest growth in telecommuting since 2008. By 2020 it’s expected that at least half the workforce will be telecommuting, largely thanks to the cloud and flexibility of technology.

With a host of benefits for the employee and employer, it’s easy to see why more professionals, executives and even doctors are becoming more mobile than ever. Studies show companies who adopt decentralization see lower churn, higher productivity, and longer employee retention.

More Gross Income, Less Greenhouse Gas

Aside from the obvious benefits, a large majority of telecommuters tend to be in the top 80th percentile of earnings, they save thousands of dollars a year and even benefit the environment through greenhouse gas reduction.

However, while some day dream of the flexibility of waking up later, avoiding traffic and saving money on gas and transportation, others are realizing the implications and adjustments that are required to compensate for the lack of in person, human interaction.

Simply put, remote working isn’t for everyone.

It Gets Lonely Outside the Office

Trading the confines of a tiny office space or monotonous cubicle is only as liberating as your ability to adjust to a completely different set of rules.

Rules which, similar to the discipline required to become a successful entrepreneur, require active and purposeful actions to ensure you don’t end up on the ‘loner remote-worker island’ and devastate your chances of longevity in the field.

The primary and most often discussed downsides to remote working are loneliness and lack of communication, two problems that most frequently affect extroverted workers. Accordingly, the more obvious solution has generally been tied to attracting more introverted employees.

Extroverts Can Feed Their Social Need With or Without a Physical Office Space

But what if I told you that I’m an extroverted guy who has managed to find ways to counteract the effects of isolation and thrive in a remote position? What if I told you there are actionable steps you can take to feed your social drive?

These steps can be taken online or offline; with your colleagues or with completely new people. The goal here is to help extroverts, like myself, gain their energy through highly stimulating, social interactions, to recharge their battery without sacrificing their new-found freedom.

5 Ways to Build Organic Relationships With Colleagues You’ve Never Met

1. Plan Purposeful Social ‘Water-Coolers’ with Your Coworkers

Before you start protesting about how awkward this could be, think about your first time hanging out with anyone, one on one.

It’s usually slightly awkward.

Once you move passed this limiting thought, you’ll value the time getting to know someone one-on-one and probably become less awkward in real life situations as well. Take about 15–30 minutes per week or even per day if you’re comfortable, to put time on someone’s calendar just to chat. Not about work. About life, about their day, about a new show you’re watching — about anything at all. Give yourself the opportunity to see where the conversation flows naturally.

2. Have a Lunch Virtually With a Colleague

If you’ve ever been in a long distance relationship, or ever known anyone who has, they’ll probably tell you they’ve watched television shows while on the phone together, fallen asleep while on Skype or had dinner with their significant other over FaceTime.

Buying or making your lunch and eating in front of your colleague is pretty much the same.

Rather than being at the cafeteria together, you’ve got a slightly more limited view of your surroundings, and in turn — more forced attention on the person in front of you.

3. Play Online Games Together

Not only does this give you an excuse to find fun online games to play and challenge your colleagues to; bonding through activities will also give you a better understanding of the other person’s strengths, weaknesses and interests. This could prove effective in helping you work better together in the future on company projects or other assignments.

For starters try Jackbox Party Pack. After 7 months of searching for great online games to play with your team, I can tell you confidently that you and your colleagues will thoroughly enjoy the interaction.

4. Create Non-Work Related Slack Channels

Informal conversations happen inside the office at random times in the day, and often time remote working can feel like it’s lacking that spur of the moment side chatter.

Creating social channels dedicated to similar interests, like #music or #televisionshows or threads with #funnyphotos and #zenposts can also be a positive and engaging way to bond with team members. In 5 Slack Channels Every Company needs, Jamon Holmgren provides a great list of side-channels that could spark some ideas.

5. Ask for Introductions

You may not know everyone on payroll — and the likelihood of you meeting everyone in the company via g-chat or slack is slim — but you probably only three degrees of separation from your digital office best friend.

Ask someone you have an established relationship with to make an introduction to someone else in the firm who could help you in your line of work, or if you trust their judgement, someone you would get along with.

It’s a much warmer way to establish a relationship since you have a common friend and it may even benefit your career development

The Takeaway

At first thought, remote working might seem more ideal for introverted individuals. However, there are plenty of resources, activities and actions you can take with colleagues to ensure your social life continues to regenerate weekly.

Unlike the office space, where you’re probably the first person anyone walks over to when they need their social fix, remote work provides you with the boundaries you probably weren’t willing to set in real life.

And although the common belief is that telecommuting is an introverts haven, it’s extroverts who have the power to thrive in an isolated environment. Opportunities to schedule your specific social hours and daily distractions means you’re a more productive employee and create more purposeful and meaningful interactions.

You might even find that the tools you use as a remote worker, help you become a more effective socializer in settings outside of your digital work life.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by +389,305 people.

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