“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.“
A “social relationship” is a broad term used to describe any interpersonal relationship engaged in by two or more individuals. These are the everyday interactions we experience with other people, and they have a big impact on our well-being. Work from home relationships fall under this umbrella term and are integral for success and mental well-being for remote workers.
In their research “Social Relationships and Health: A Flashpoint for Health Policy,” Debra Umberson and Jennifer Karas Montez examined the positive and negative effects of social relationships on our health. Their findings indicated that positive social relationships benefit us so much that they motivate us to live longer. Whereas, negative social relationships compromise our physical health to such a degree that they may compromise our immune systems.
Given the nature and variety of social relationships for work from home professionals, extra attention should be paid to fostering positive relationships in their lives. If you work from home, or have an interest in telecommuting, consider these suggestions for developing and maintaining happy and healthy work from home relationships.
How To Cultivate Work Relationships When Working from Home
From interactions with remote managers and co-workers to professional networking, cultivating remote work relationships is a catalyst for success. Consider these methods for nurturing telecommuter relationships.
Remote Workers and Supervisors
Without in-person oversight and onsite relationships, communication is much more important to building positive relationships between telecommuters and remote supervisors. Checking-in with your managers at regular intervals will help to establish trust—without it, neither party can thrive.
Your remote supervisors should never have to wonder—at least not about your workflow and the status of ongoing projects. Take a proactive approach to communicating with your managers and provide answers to questions before they’re even asked.
Timely responses to emails, instant messages, and phone calls are essential to ongoing projects orchestrated by geographically dispersed collaborators. Overlooked or ignored correspondence from your remote supervisors can result in project delays. This is detrimental not only to your own productivity, but also to the progress of your co-workers and the company.
Telecommuters and Co-Workers
Whether you are new to a virtual team or your company is introducing new hires, reach out! Proactively contact your new colleagues to make introductions and establish a pattern of open communication.
Be Appropriately Personal
While you don’t need to (and probably shouldn’t) share your deepest secrets with co-workers, there’s no harm in appropriate bonding. This could simply mean wishing each other well during holidays and birthdays, or periodically exchanging family photos and funny stories about children and pets.
Respect Their Time
Remote co-workers appreciate reliability. By fulfilling promises and meeting deliverables, you will solidify your reputation as a dependable colleague and reinforce positive workplace culture. Especially when the completion of your own work affects the outcome of your co-worker’s to-dos.
Working from Home and Networking
Keep in Touch
Foster positive interactions among your professional network by engaging with your valued connections. Reach out to extend congratulations upon news of job changes, promotions, project leadership opportunities, career anniversaries, and other professional milestones. Staying in touch with your network keeps your name top of mind and establishes you as a valued connection. These relationships frequently lead to future job offers and opportunities to collaborate.
Practice Quid Pro Quo
Members of your professional network are great for obtaining letters of recommendation, LinkedIn endorsements, and referrals. However, make sure you are willing to do the same for your peers in return.
Sure, working from the comfort of your own home is just as great as it sounds, but sometimes it’s nice to get out. Coworking enables remote employees and the self-employed to share communal workspace and resources without incurring many of the overhead costs. While COVID-19 temporarily closed many of these facilities, many are reopening with appropriate safety protocols.
Nurturing Personal Work from Home Relationships
Whether enjoying your family and pets at home or fostering social relationships, cultivating strong personal bonds improves your quality of life. In turn, feeling better about your life motivates you to be more productive when you’re working. Consider these ideas for nurturing strong personal work from home relationships.
Remote Workers and Families
When working from home, one way to promote positive family interactions is to establish boundaries between work and home life. Strategies to achieve this goal include defining a home office, scheduling “office hours,” and communicating with your family. After all, the longer you are distracted from work, the less time you can spend with your family.
Create a Care Plan
Working from home isn’t a magic formula for being a better parent. In fact, combining work and family under the same roof can compound the stresses of both elements of your life. Have an open conversation with your family and develop a realistic childcare plan. This means facing the fact that work is difficult while simultaneously caring for your child.
Remember, working from home should not dictate that you, by default, become the primary daytime caregiver. Some families have work from home jobs and schedules that make this possible—others do not. Acknowledging that your work is best completed while utilizing outside childcare assistance does not make you a failure as a telecommuter or as a parent.
When it’s time to be with your family, take off your work hat. Log out of your computer, disable your mobile alerts, and put down your phone. Being truly present will make the time you spend with your loved ones all the more precious, for all parties.
Telecommuters and Pets
Make Time for Walks
Incorporate walks and/or playtime with your pets into your daily schedule. Committing to regular exercise and play with your pet will not only provide you both with the health benefits of physical activity, but also motivate your pooches and kitties to be more docile during your work hours.
Consider Your Pet’s POV
As a remote worker, part of fostering a positive relationship with your pet involves taking steps to keep your fur baby safe when spending time with you in your home office. In the same way a new parent baby-proofs their home, pet mommies and daddies should consider safety hazards that could jeopardize the well-being of their animals.
Identify home office safety concerns by exploring your workspace from the floor upward. Secure your bookcases to the walls, install electrical outlet covers, tidy computer cables, and search for any other hazards that could catch the attention of your pets.
Remote Workers and Friendships
Choose Your Friends
Free time is valuable currency to spend when there’s a high return on investment. Therefore, don’t try and cultivate friendships with people you aren’t motivated to spend time with.
Prioritize a Pattern of In-Person Meetings
Relying on social media and texts to keep in touch with friends can make your friends seem like virtual co-workers. Instead, develop a pattern of attending regular video calls and (after COVID-19) in-person get-togethers. Don’t take for granted the benefits of exchanging real laughter with your friends, rather than typing “lol” or sending an emoji. Prioritizing face-to-face engagement with your friends will do wonders for combating the isolating effects of telecommuting.
Connect When You DON’T Want Something
Strive for mutually beneficial relationships with your non-telecommuting friends. This means talking and spending time with your friends “just because.” It’s important to have people in your life to turn to for a favor or during a crisis. However, also make sure to surround yourself with people who inspire you to connect just to say hello.
Tips for Couples Working From Home
Relationships Where Only One Works From Home
Creating and maintaining a strong relationship with your spouse or significant other is difficult at the best of times. When one is working remotely, there are additional hurdles to overcome. Care must be taken not to take each other for granted and also to carve out time to spend together. Work from home relationships where one partner works remotely have several common potential pitfalls:
- Assuming the one working from home has extra time for additional chores. Just because one partner works from home does not mean they can run your errands or otherwise pick up your slack.
- Jealousy of the other partner. Either because they get to leave the house and go to work. Or because the other gets to stay in their pajamas and not endure a grueling commute.
- Blurring of boundaries. Work time and space boundaries need to be mutually agreed on. This is as much to ensure quality relationship time with your partner as it is to prevent work interruptions.
Relationships Where You Both Work From Home
Couples working from home together can encounter a variety of stressors that can put pressure on their relationship. Three of the top issues that can develop in work from home relationships with both partners working from home includes:
- Too much togetherness. Spending 24/7 together can get on the nerves. It’s a good idea to include opportunities for alone time. Try creating separate workspaces or going for walks at different times.
- Different work schedules. When partners work different schedules or number of hours, conflict can arise. Make sure to respect each other’s work hours and avoid non-essential interruptions.
- Lacking in romance. Lounging around in your sweatpants all day is really comfortable, but it’s not very attractive. Schedule dates (even in-house) and spruce yourself up for some quality one-on-one time.
Work from home jobs afford increased flexibility, less commute time, and more opportunity to achieve an optimal work-life balance. However, there are relationship pitfalls to consider. With a little foresight and communication with your loved ones, most of these can be headed off before they become a problem. The common thread is love, and as long as you have that, everything else can be worked out.
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