Whether you currently work from home or see telecommuting as your dream job, it is important that you understand certain working remotely pros and cons. One con is the risk of losing social connections and friendships that are often formed in the office. Here’s more information on the social risks inherent in working remotely and how to have a social life as a remote worker.
While working remotely has benefits, such as the oft-mentioned ability to work in your PJs, avoiding overly chatty colleagues, and avoiding office politics, there are risks and disadvantages that come with it. Among these disadvantages are:
- Non-existent social life
- Longer hours
- Struggles in work-life balance
Who Benefits From Remote Working?
While anyone can benefit from telecommuting, depending on their lifestyle, priorities, and the organization for which they’re employed, it takes conscious effort to do so in such a way that the full advantages are realized. Personality characteristics such as extroversion vs. introversion should be considered. Since extroverts gain energy from other people and introverts recharge from being alone, it may seem that introverts would have a blast with remote working. But introverts need friends too, and it can be more challenging for introverts to reach out for social connections without an infrastructure in place. Loneliness can set in for anyone.
The Importance of a Social Life
A social life is a lot more important than many people may think. Social isolation may have some surprising effects on individuals, including developing a fear of meeting people and / or of leaving home. It can cause low self-esteem and harm existing relationships, as the isolated person may rely too heavily on a limited number of family and friends. It can also leave people feeling trapped and having other mental health struggles, such as depression and anxiety.
Ways to Fight Social Isolation and Maintain a Social Life
Work at a Public Place
Working remotely does not mean the person has work alone or work from home all the time. There are plenty of places to work in order to keep life interesting and increase the chances of meeting new people. Coffee shops, restaurants, and even museums offer a change of scene with free wifi.
Even if you don’t chat with anyone, being in an environment that includes other people can energize the remote worker and dull the effects of social isolation.
Designate a Time For Work
If all you do as a remote worker is work, you are eventually going to experience burnout. Working constantly can cause your productivity to fall. A better approach to working remotely is designating hours for work so that you can improve your productivity. If you’re expected to be online during certain hours, you should conform to that without making yourself available during off-hours and weekends. Focus that time on recreation and time with family and friends.
Set Aside Space Exclusively For Work
As a remote worker, it can help to separate work from other parts of your living space so you don’t feel like you’re at work during all of the hours you spend at home. One thing you can do is designate a room or a space exclusively for work. This can help you “turn off” at the end of the workday. Shut down the computer, leave the workspace, and don’t return until the start of the next work day. Close the door, draw a curtain, or unfold a screen to signify to yourself that the office is closed.
Take Days Off
This is perhaps one of the most important things you can do. Just because you work remotely does not mean that you have to work every single day of your life. Taking days off from work can help you manage your work-life balance while working remotely.
Rewarding yourself for a job well done can motivate you to be more productive. One thing you can do is set goals and a reward of your choice for reaching these goals. Once you reach these goals, take time off to meet with people and enjoy activities, especially outdoors if the weather cooperates. Make work the furthest thing from your mind on your days off.
Go to Events
One thing that can help with your social life is going to events. You can meet and connect with people at these events. Festivals, concerts, trivia nights, and other opportunities to socialize are all great options.
Go To the Movies or See a Play
This is another great way to reward yourself for a productive day. Catching a fun movie on opening night can help you distance yourself from the work day and provide encouraging energy. You can go with a friend or by yourself. If you feel self-conscious seeing a movie alone, go on a Monday or Tuesday to an early movie or see a classic: Fathom Events puts on big screen classics on a regular basis. As of this writing, upcoming movies include The Big Lebowski, South Pacific, and Rebel without a Cause.
One thing that can be hard to admit is that you need help; as a telecommuter, you may feel pressure to get everything done yourself. Delegating some responsibilities as appropriate can enable you to take more time off. It’s easy to feel like a one-person department and neglect to assign projects to others, but doing so also enables you to illustrate your leadership and management skills.
Talk To Other Remote Workers
If you know any other people who work remotely, you can connect with them and share experiences with one another. One thing you can do is have lunch or enjoy happy hour with other remote workers. While meeting with one another, you can share ideas and brainstorm ways to improve your work-life balance. You can also evaluate these relationships to see if some of them would make good friendships. Regular connections with people who have something in common with you will help you be more connected and feel more socially confident.
Talk With People in Public Establishments
Depending on the public establishment, you can talk with the people that work there. For instance, if you work in the library, you can take a few minutes off to talk with some of the employees; ask them to help you with some research, and strike up a conversation about recent news related to the subject. Even a short chat can help you feel rejuvenated when you return to your regular tasks.
There are a lot of tools at your fingertips for meeting people. You can use apps like Just Happy Hours meet people (not necessarily remote workers) for drinks and dinner. This will help you find a life outside of your organization and learn new things. You will expand your social circle and have an opportunity to have interesting discussions with others about travel and other subjects other than work.
People who manage to maintain a social life while working remotely are happier and more successful in work, as well as in daily life. As a matter of fact, if they are creative enough, remote workers can have even more of a social life than people who work in the office!
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