I have worked remotely in some form or another for a long time, but only recently in a full-time capacity with no opportunity to go into an office. I love what I do, but there are times when I realize the lack of face-time can really be a blocker in my work. As a learning leader, I like to see what people are doing and get a feel for what is happening in the office. That insight is lacking when working remotely. I also crave opportunities to think creatively with others to solve a problem. So how can you compensate for these and still feel connected?
I do not come from the tech world, so the idea of a standup was very foreign to me. When my director suggested we do a standup with our talent business partners three times a week to better understand what was happening in the business, I was a little skeptical. How much meaningful information could we learn in just 25 minutes? Apparently, quite a bit. These meetings have not only produced some really important insights, but made me feel closer to those who are working in the business (on site) every day. That has changed my ability to be more responsive to our internal customers.
If you want to add a standup to your routine, it has to come with a strict purpose, time constraint and commitment to show up. It may take a little while to get into the rhythm, but in no time you will be sharing important information that you can follow-up on at a later time. And, it will make you feel more connected to your team and the work they are doing.
One thing I really miss about being in an office is informal conversation. There are days where I talk more to my dogs than my colleagues (which is a little frightening, as my daughter regularly tells me). One of my colleagues and I have made a point to have more regular chats that don’t always center around the projects we are doing. When remote, most meetings tend to be very tactical. But it is that informal conversation that makes us feel connected.
So, she and I schedule some time to sit and talk, prop each other up a bit, help think about things differently, and just talk about our lives outside of work. Without it, I think I would really feel isolated at work. I look forward to the time we make for these and am thinking come spring we’ll add a walk-and-talk component to our chats.
Forums and Chats
I like to learn about others and share information with people. It is probably what drew me to learning as a profession in the first place. Being at home, though, it is harder to do casual shares and start conversations around interesting topics. While I continue to look for the best way to do this in my organization, I use other outlets personally to share and get information on topics that interest me. Social media isn’t perfect, but it can help us feel connected can’t be with others in person. (And where else can you just tune someone out when you don’t like what they have to say?)
Local Conferences and Events
Back in October, my coffee-talk buddy came to Boston and we visited a free (yes, FREE) StartUp Boston conference. It was two days filled with insightful professionals sharing their wisdom and experience, along with time for networking and connecting. We both left the conference feeling more energized and ready to bring ideas back to our work. Expanding our thinking about the work we do was important, but the human interaction and casual conversation was priceless.
I love the opportunity to work remotely. It provides flexibility and a chance to do what I love with people from all over the world. But connection is critical, so taking steps like these help me feel like I am still a part of something bigger. (And that my team doesn’t just consist of me, and two snoring labs in the background.)