Navigating Relationships as a Remote Worker

navigating relationships as a remote worker

Navigating relationships as a remote worker can sometimes take a little extra effort in order to make them work. Here are some tips that can help you manage them in a way that makes them more fulfilling and effective.

Navigating Relationships as a Remote Worker

As companies continue to realize the benefits of remote workers, the percentage of virtual employees, freelancers, and contractors is burgeoning. According to a Forbes report, 50% of the U.S. workforce will work outside the office in some capacity in 2020, underscoring the importance of a diversified approach to employment. For many remote employees, this newfound lifestyle is an exciting chapter in their career and personal lives. However, working away from colleagues presents an entirely new set of challenges.

Navigating relationships as a remote worker is a tricky and daunting task, but with the right mindset and practices, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Here are some tips to help you maintain your communication with business partners, friends, and family, even when you’re working from home, a café, or a coworking space halfway around the world.

Use Instant Messaging Platforms

In many regards, instant messaging has usurped traditional texting, especially for remote workers. When navigating relationships as a remote worker, nothing’s more reliable than Slack, Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, or Instagram Messenger. They certainly beat trying to memorize country codes and 12- or 13-digit numbers.

By using these instant messaging platforms, you can interact with friends and family with just a few keystrokes and the send button. The same goes for Slack and other collaborative online messaging tools which allow you to discuss business, your current mood, or your latest adventure. Many of these instant messengers also have video chats and phone calls built into the system, giving you a more formal or personal way to contact others.

While these platforms give you ample opportunity to communicate with others, the issue of when and how often to use them is integral. Be observant of your co-workers’ time zones so you aren’t sending a 3 a.m. wake-up call. Use them as much as possible to maintain relationships as if you were there in person.

Meet Up with Friends and Co-Workers, If Possible

Although many remote-friendly companies have workers scattered around the globe, others have more tight-knit communities in a smaller geographic locations. Either way, take every opportunity to meet up with these co-workers whenever possible. Putting a face to a name is more than just a solid business practice—it’s a personal, human connection that can turn mere colleagues into friends.

The benefits of such relationships are numerous. According to a survey from job site Comparably, nearly 60% of workers have a best friend or a group of friends at work. Research shows that not only does this increase your work happiness, but it may also boost your engagement and productivity at work. 

Face-to-face engagement with people in your personal life is still crucial as a remote worker. In theory, a remote job would make it more possible to meet up with friends and family. However, a lack of a set schedule and the ability to work whenever you want can hinder this opportunity. Therefore, take any chance you get to grab a cup of coffee, see a concert, or go to a sporting event with your loved ones.

Digital nomads may discover that meeting with friends or co-workers is almost impossible. But that shouldn’t deter them from working on navigating relationships as a remote worker. Websites such as Meetup.com and Citysocializer.com help you to find like-minded people with similar interests in your city. Facebook groups geared toward expats and digital nomads in a specific city are also goldmines for networking, informational meeting, or common interest groups.

Put in the Effort to Get to Know Your Co-Workers

Just like conventional work arrangements, you have to put in the effort to get to know your co-workers. While some may come to you, answering their questions with one-word answers or indifference can close them off to future communication. But actively engaging your colleagues is a fundamental part of navigating relationships as a remote worker.

Don’t assume that getting to know your co-workers is some grandiose gesture. It just takes a comment on a photo, a congratulations, or a virtual thumbs-up to pave the way toward a warm business relationship or even a friendship. You may not see it firsthand, but people enjoy any effort you make to get to know them on a deeper level, especially when you never actually meet in the flesh.

Stay Connected with Social Media

Social media is the gateway to all modern communication. With three or four generations on a single platform, you can communicate with grandma, mom, and your nephew in a matter of minutes. However, social media is also a medium that creates resentment or negativity among co-workers or long-distance friends if used improperly.

To keep your social media profile sparkling clean, think about the benefits of the memes, pictures, and comments that you post. If you still can’t decide whether to post something, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this post in line with company policy?
  • Is this something that I’d be proud to show my grandmother? My co-workers?
  • Is this post absolutely necessary or a conversation that I need to start online?
  • What’s the point of posting this?

If you can’t answer these questions satisfactorily, chances are you shouldn’t post the comment, picture, or meme. In addition, freelancers and contractors should be aware that their social media profile is part of their brand. Don’t tarnish it in one fell swoop.

Even when you pass the question test, don’t feel obligated to always post to social media. Your friends, and many times, your co-workers, take an interest in your family and hobbies. If posting feels like a chore, take a break. Navigating relationships as a remote worker via social media shouldn’t become an arduous task. Just remember that social media is the insight into your life for the people who care about you the most.

Join a Coworking Space

If you’re a freelancer or a contractor, coworking spaces are a great option. Available in major and mid-sized cities worldwide, coworking spaces provide flex desks, permanent desks, meeting rooms, and integrated social areas that allow remote workers to collaborate and unite.

For a monthly fee, you’ll have access to the coworking space for a specific time or 24/7. With perks such as free coffee (sometimes beer), high-speed Wi-Fi, networking events, and collaboration opportunities with others, it’s a convenient, efficient method for meeting new people. Note that this doesn’t replace your current co-workers and friends. It’s just another way of navigating relationships as a remote worker when others aren’t available for a social call.

Take an Active Role in Onboarding New Employees

The workplace does not differ much from your days in elementary school. No one likes to be the new kid. Undoubtedly, you will come across a time where a new employee comes into the fold and integrates your remote company. While you could let managers conduct the onboarding process, putting out a friendly vibe can often make these new workers feel welcome and forge a mutually beneficial relationship.

Just as you were once a new student or a new employee, don’t forget the doubt or loneliness you may have felt in the same position. By shooting them a virtual “hello” or asking them a bit about themselves, you can build a stronger team while aiding them in navigating relationships as a remote worker.

Remember Important Dates

Do you remember when your grandparents sent you a birthday card with cash inside and somehow it arrived right on your birthday? That wasn’t just a coincidence. With your birthday on their mind and a bit of planning, they put your card in the mail on the right date so you received it on time. Interestingly enough, you can apply the same idea to your remote work relationships.

Almost everyone on social media lists their birthdays. Send a “Happy Birthday” or another message when their special day comes. Even if it doesn’t arrive on time (foreign mail is a bit crazy at times), a birthday card from a foreign country can take this idea to the next level. Throw in anniversaries and other important dates, and you’ll make a gesture that can lift a person’s spirits whether you met them 20 years ago at school or yesterday on a company email.

You Won’t Please Everyone

Navigating relationships as a remote worker isn’t a seamless, no-drama endeavor. You’re bound to come across situations where you just don’t see eye-to-eye with coworkers. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a decent and productive work relationship. It means you may just have to work a bit harder to remain cordial.

The same goes for friends and family. You might have friends you don’t see for years, but as soon as you meet, it’s like you never left. These friends aren’t the crux of remote worker issues. There are others who may need constant attention and correspondence to maintain friendships; it’s nothing personal. They’re just wired differently. Therefore, you might have to make a vested effort to maintain a personal connection, even when you’re in another city or you don’t work in the office anymore.

Location independence and remote work are valuable assets to maintain your zest for work and indulge your wanderlust. They allow you to explore the outside world and spend time with your loved ones in ways that previous generations never envisioned. With a bit of forethought and an outgoing attitude, you can still keep your co-workers, colleagues, and loved ones as close as you ever have.

What are your best tips for navigating relationships as a remote worker? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to tell us. We’d love to hear from you!

iStock Photo Credit: PeopleImages


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