I love working remotely, but I feel more isolated than ever. How do I make friends with my colleagues? My business has switched to remote working during the pandemic, and no one is in a rush to get back to the office anytime soon. This means that I can still work from home for a while, but with friends leaving and new people starting remotely, how can I contact them or stay close to my current work friends?
You might think that the hardest part of starting a job – or even keeping a job – while working remotely during a global pandemic is figuring out how to collaborate productively with your colleagues away from boardrooms and breakout rooms. brainstorming drive which, let’s admit, nobody really really likes. But what I miss most is unofficial communication: the smiles and reproaches from my office colleagues; the people who come by my office to say “hi” to me; and that sense of camaraderie that makes the trip at least partially interesting. Looks like you miss it too.
Correction is quite easy. Well, easy for me to write, not necessarily easy to put into practice. I also started a job (the one I have now, in fact, here at WIRED) during the pandemic, and the first steps were difficult, but I’m happy to say that I made more friends in a year here than I could have ever imagined.
As long as we work remotely behind screens, it will be hard to make each of us feel truly connected to one another. It’s true that you started a job when everyone else was at a distance and you haven’t had the chance to meet someone in person, or you’ve been around for ages and your friends from work current are gone for new concerts. The only real solution is to do what everyone hates – get out there and talk to people.
Have them go on a video call with you just to discuss what you’re working on and their interests. Offer a virtual coffee or a virtual drink after work. (Or ice cream, for people who don’t drink. My friend Karen Ho, sustainability reporter at Initiated, taught me that one!) Make plans to go out after a big project is finished, for example. And keep going! Save this 15 minute coffee break on their calendar so no one will forget it, and be prepared to move it if you (or them) don’t feel it today.
Not all openings have to be in the form of a calendar appointment. Join discussions in Slack or Discord when someone says something funny. When a coworker shares photos of cats in Slack, share your own cute photos. Every business (trust me, each company) offers Slack channels for jokes, memes, snack alerts, or just for sharing stories and gossip. Dive in and share! It might seem awkward at first, but the more you do it, the more people will respond to you positively and the more you will have a sense of what resonates with your coworkers and what doesn’t. Follow your coworkers on Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok (if you feel safe) and interact with them, gently, letting them know you appreciate their presence. Engage with them on a human level, not at the level of a colleague trying to network.
I know, open up a bit and talk to people? Gross. I wish there was an easier answer, one that allows me to sit on my ass and let respect and validation come to me without having to be genuinely vulnerable or stumble through my social anxiety. awkward. But a) we don’t always get what we want, and b) you ask a question that many of us struggle to answer even in the best of circumstances, even before ‘social distancing’ is over. a thing.