1. Find a New Workspace
Patrick Hill jokes that he knew he had to get out of the house when he started talking about work with his cats. At the time, his only conversations with people at work were during an occasional phone call with customers or his boss.
When he did leave the house to meet with friends, he noticed that he started talking with more people than usual — and he’d get as many words into the conversation as possible.
“I realized the problem is I’m in the house by myself all day, for most of the week,” says Hill, 39, an account manager in the automotive aftermarket industry. “I need to be around people for my own mental stability.”
Now when he needs a break from the solitude, Hill finds a new place to work. Most often, he’ll head to his neighborhood Starbucks in Tampa, Florida. He’s gotten to know the baristas by name, and they welcome him back when he returns from the occasional hiatus.
When looking for a place to work outside the home, Hill suggests any location that offers free Wi-Fi, access to power outlets and ample space to put down your laptop or whatever else you need. Usually, a coffee shop, bookstore or any shared workspace will do the trick.
“Just being in a different environment can sometimes be helpful for thinking and coming up with stuff versus sitting at home,” Hill says.
2. Use Your Company’s Messaging System
One of the best tools at a remote worker’s disposal for staying in contact with colleagues is an instant messenger program. Breanne Celiberti, a wellness partnership manager in the fitness industry, uses Slack to keep up with more than 80 co-workers who all work from home around the country.
Beyond the standard job-oriented channels in her company’s Slack account, there are designated pages where people can discuss topics not related to work. Some of the fun ones include a fitness channel called “Get It Right, Get It Tight,” a foodie channel called “Snack Attack” and a random-topic channel called the “Sparkling Water Cooler.” She says these channels allow her co-workers to open up and share more about themselves.
“I think it’s great because you make connections with other co-workers you might not normally talk to during the day,” she says.
3. Schedule Collaboration Days With Local Co-Workers
Celiberti considers herself fortunate to have several fellow remote co-workers living in her town. It’s an added benefit not everyone in her company shares.
That’s why at least two times a week she meets up with some of her nine co-workers living in Tampa, Florida, to work together in the same place. When she arrives at the location, usually a coffee shop, there can be two or three people already there working on their daily assignments.
She says, “It’s just nice to be able to have some face time and talk about things that might be going on at work.”
4. Meet-Ups With Long-Distance Co-Workers When in Town
When the opportunity to meet a long-distance co-worker presents itself, Maria Rosen takes advantage of it. Rosen, 53, a registered nurse in the healthcare auditing industry based in Tampa, Florida, has worked from home for eight years.
Every once in a while, she’ll get a message from a long-distance work friend saying they will be coming down to Florida for vacation. When that happens, they check their schedules and see if there is an opportunity to meet.
In the past, Rosen has traveled from Tampa to Miami or Orlando to have dinner or coffee with her friends — some for the first time. “It’s nice to be able to meet them in person because then you have that connection,” she says. “It just strengthens our working relationship.”
5. Find Virtual Co-Workers
As the owner and sole employee of a cooking-service website, Ruthy Kirwan knows she has to stay focused while working from her home office. To do that, she starts off each day by logging on to her computer and greeting her “digital co-workers.” Kirwan, who creates content for her website PercolateKitchen.com, joins a video conference call with other online business owners working from their homes.
Everyone on the conference call follows the Pomodoro Technique of working for 25 minutes, followed by a five-minute break. During work sessions, all the members work on their own tasks with the microphones turned off and their cameras on. During the break, they unmute their mics and catch up with each other.
“It’s odd… They’re doing their own work, but it’s keeping that small space up in the right-hand corner of my desktop that inspires me to keep working as well,” she says.
Kirwan, from Queens, New York, found all of her digital co-workers from a private Facebook group geared toward working moms. The members reside all around the country and operate on different schedules. Whenever she logs on, three or four people greet her.
“It does beat that loneliness,” she says. “It’s like having co-workers and working in an office setting. You’re inspired by the people who are working by you. You can see their heads bent, and they’re working.
“That kind of gets you in the mood to work as well.”