Easy Ways to Connect with Colleagues When You Work Remotely

Dear Sophaya,

I’ve received a job offer with a company that doesn’t have an office…everyone works remotely. This scares me because I’ve never done it before and I really value the interactions I have with my co-workers in my current office. The new job is a great opportunity but I’m worried that I’ll be too lonely working by myself all the time.


Lonely Without My Office Buddies

Dear Lonely,

First, congrats on the great offer! It’s always nice to have options that stretch us as professionals and challenge us to try new things. That’s a BIG positive here!

I totally appreciate your concerns….9 years ago, when I decided to go out on my own, I meet with several “consultants/freelancers” types who told me to prepare for the loneliness. This was before social media, before video chat and cell phone….basically, email and phone were the only ways to stay in timely touch. Happily, I ignored the naysayers and struck out on my own anyway and I’ve never looked back.

Technology advances and new approaches have made it pretty easy to feel connected. While the first couple of years were tough, it’s SO easy now to stay in touch. My devices are my console to the world. My only limits are bandwidth and wifi. In fact, there are so many ways to stay in touch now that sometimes I have the exact opposite problem; I struggle with setting boundaries and guarding my time –  topic for another post, lol. Now I’m so glad I made the shift to remote work that I can’t imagine working in a traditional office as the thought of it seems so confining and so limiting to me now.

In order to get to this point, I had to learn new skills the hard way – trial and error. Here are just a few things we’ve adopted here at Sophaya to build productive and engaged touch point with those people on our team and in our networks:

Utilize the many channels available to you to stay in touch with your peeps: There are SO many communication channel options for connecting these days.  Whether that contact is face-to-face, over the phone or digital, as long as it’s a connection to a human it breaks the monotony of your day. We call these relationship touchpoints. In a traditional office, these are the moment someone stops by your workspace to say hi, a chance meeting in the office kitchen or attending your weekly team meeting. While this can be nice, this can also be incredibly disruptive and time-consuming. Let’s face it, not all office chat is productive or welcome. Sometimes these interactions are downright intrusive. Not everything that happens in an office is a productive use of time.

In a remote work world, there are lots of ways to recreate these office moments through remote touch points that are far less disruptive to your time and workflow yet give us some of the human contact many of us crave. Chat platforms such as Slack are a vital part of the remote work environment these days as they provide a free-flowing, informal and often irreverent chatter that can include the entire team or smaller workgroups. IM, Text or other quick chat tools offer informal opportunities to say hi without imposing on someone. If the person you seek is available and wishes to engage, they will answer back. If not, you can move on without any interruption knowing your party will reach out when and if they are ready and able to talk.

Email is still a thing, phones are still a thing but video is exploding….as remote professionals, we think nothing of video chatting with one or many people at the same time on our phones, laptops, tablets or whatever screen is in front of us. It’s a new way of communicating, a quick IM to see if someone is available and then a quick video chat usually resolves sticky problems quickly while also providing you with the opportunity to add a short social moment – “What’s the weather look like where you are?” “How’s your daughter feeling?” “I’m going to be in town next week, do you have time for lunch?”

Schedule time to get people’s attention shows respect and ensures availability

Remote work allows for concentration and focused work. “Drive bys” at a traditional office means people can just drop by your workspace whenever they feel like it. You can’t do this when you work remotely. Connecting takes more planning. By scheduling check-ins with colleagues, partners and your boss, you not only stay top of mind, you also stay informed. There is obviously a fine line between checking-in and bugging people, but most remote workers need info just like you do and they will welcome a chance to catch up if they perceive you are someone valuable who can share useful info with them. Make an effort to be the connector for your boss and colleagues. Stay in touch and up-to-date, then share your knowledge with others so they stay informed as well – not only does it make you a valuable ally, it also helps you to get work done faster. It’s a win-win for everyone and it allows you to gain a reputation as the team member who knows what’s going on and can makes things happen in the team.

Use every touch point to insert social moments

Social moments are critical to remote professionals. They need to happen to help dispersed teams bond with each other. The start of a meeting is a great time to connect. Use people’s names; build in a human moment before you jump right into business just as you would in a physical conference room. Scheduling time for regular check-ins with your boss, your coworkers and your partners is important because, when you are remote, there are no ad-hoc hallway meetings anymore. You’ll find that remote work meetings tend to be shorter and to the point. However, most remote professionals not only tolerate but enjoy, a quick minute at the beginning of an interaction to check in and shoot the breeze. This is particularly important because there is a lot of evidence we humans are not hard wired to empathize or connect with strangers .

We know that taking that first step into remote work can seem intimidating. But it’s well worth a try. Remote work is not a novelty any longer…it’s very typical these days. Happily for you, there are many of us who love to share our experiences and help mentors others along. We’re here anytime – just a click away!

Reach out any time!

Need some remote work advice? Ask the experts.  We’ll give you insights based on our years of experience with successfully building virtual teams that get work done. Just leave your question in the comment section.

Photo by CoWomen