There’s a lot of romanticism around working remotely… We somehow have the vision that being a digital nomad means somebody working on their laptop in the warm, tropical sun with turquoise waves lapping at their feet. Perhaps being fed grapes by a beautiful Thai woman… or maybe that’s just me.
The truth is remote work rarely looks like this.
In fact, switching from a traditional work environment to an online work environment can be very challenging and may leave you craving those pointless conversations you used to have at the coffee machine every day.
Marina, head of HR at Microwork.io, has been working remotely for six years. She’s a natural extrovert and people-person, and this week I speak to her about how to stay sociable and how to communicate effectively as part of your digital team.
When you first land yourself an online job it can be very tempting to be available all the time. Working from anywhere usually goes hand-in-hand with working at any time.
And working at any time means that it’s sometimes very difficult to stop.
“Just one more email” rarely stays at “just one more email”.
I remember the moment when this changed for me. I was sat playing with my child and found myself replying to a work message on my phone… It was then that I deleted my work email address and Workplace from my mobile — I can’t have my time at work interfere with my time as a mother.
If you enjoy working it can be really difficult to know when to stop. Nobody else is going to tell you stop, so it’s something you have to learn and decide for yourself.
Most remote businesses rely on tools like Slack or Facebook’s Workplace to communicate. And let’s just say, this can take some getting used to.
In real-life offices, it’s easy to express what you want and talk among your colleagues for further clarification. When working remotely you have to work especially hard to make sure you understand and are understood.
You can’t immediately joke and talk around like you do with your friends on Facebook. Your friends already know you. They fill in the gaps in your chat messages and emojis to see when you’re joking or being sarcastic. When you’re communicating with new colleagues online for the first time, they have no idea what the real ‘you’ behind the emojis is really thinking, and this can often lead to interpreting things the wrong way.
My advice would be to maybe check and double check every message when you first start working remotely. Perhaps read it a few times to make sure it can be understood even out of context.
I recommend that whenever somebody joins a new remote company that they insist on Skype or Zoom as much as possible in the beginning just so they can get comfortable with who they’re talking to and to prevent any unnecessary misunderstandings that might happen otherwise.
In the on-boarding process at Microwork we use hangouts for new colleagues to make sure they get to know the rest of the team.
When you work in an office, everyone works 9–5. You know that if you need to speak to somebody you can probably catch them. But when you work remotely, there typically isn’t a strict 9–5 work schedule. Sometimes other members of your team might not even be in the same timezone so you can’t rely on getting things done immediately (and can’t always guarantee when your colleague will appear online). This forces you to be more organised and not rush things through last minute. You have been warned!
Want to take one step closer to working from anywhere? Download the Microwork app and earn Ether from completing tasks on your smartphone.
As an extrovert, I get my energy from being around people, and yet I chose a life of working from home. Of course, as head of HR, I do interact with people every day in my job, but it’s still not the same as the face-to-face conversations that you’re used to in other jobs.
To cope with this I’ve had to design my day and make the most of other social interactions. In the morning, after I drop my child at Kindergarten, I have a ritual where I go for coffee at a local cafe, no matter what. Sometimes I meet friends, sometimes I drink alone, but just being surrounded by other people allows me to get some of my social energy back.
It’s important that you prioritise and even schedule these ‘social activities’ as much as you prioritise the work you do. I love Crossfit so I’ve got lots of friends I meet every week there. I make sure that I actually schedule social time into my calendar each week in the same way that I would schedule meetings at work.
I wouldn’t say I ever feel lonely though. I’ve built good relationships at Microwork, and I know that if I need to chat with somebody, the rest of the team are just a message away.
In the world of remote-working, it’s important that you take control and plan your social life because it doesn’t happen ‘automatically’ like it does if you work in an office.
What do you think will be the hardest part of remote working for you?