The modern work world has seen tons of changes sweep across industries in recent years, largely led by seismic shifts in technological innovation that have completely revolutionized how many of us handle our jobs. There’s simply no denying it: today’s workplace is a brave new world. How we work and what we’re able to accomplish during any given day has been undergoing a radical transformation in recent years and will likely continue to evolve—those of us who choose to stay on top of all the latest developments and ride the wave of change will be best positioned for success; those who fail to do so may be left behind.
Even where we’re able to work has changed. Where once we were all required to commute each day, back and forth, to a communal workplace in order to do our jobs effectively, this is no longer a hard and fast rule. Many companies have begun offering remote work options, and today’s employees are able to handle their work responsibilities from the comfort of their homes, from a coffee shop, on a train, or wherever they find themselves in the world at any given moment. For many of us, all we need is a computer and a decent Internet connection in order to get things done at work. These days, there’s an app for virtually every task, from project management to task organization and reporting, to video conferencing, to sales aggregation, and much more—all which are making the notion of a “brick and mortar” office space increasingly obsolete.
Global Workplace Analytics recently reported that telecommuters represent the fastest-growing segment of the employee population, and it’s really no surprise. Companies benefit from this arrangement by reducing overhead costs and having an engaged and motivated workforce who can channel time wasted on commuting into their work. Reduced geographic requirements for employees also open up opportunities for hiring talented individuals from a larger and more diverse pool. Then, employees get to save the time and costs associated with commuting into work each day and enjoy increased freedom and flexibility. In many ways, it’s a win-win situation.
That said, there are some potential pitfalls to working remotely. For some, it can be an isolating experience. When working remotely, connecting in meaningful ways to colleagues becomes more of a challenge, and making work friends and maintaining these key relationships is harder and takes more work. This can have a real and lasting impact on employees’ sense of connection to the companies that employ them, as well as their professional happiness and well-being. That said, there are ways to make friends when working remotely. Consider the following strategies to help you pull it off successfully.
Come in the office from time to time if you can
Many companies offer telecommuting as an option, but still, provide a dedicated workplace to come into should employees choose to do so—and seriously consider doing so! Dividing your workweek between time in the office and time at home will help you get valuable face time with your coworkers, and help you strengthen and maintain those important workplace friendships.
Get out of the house
Working remotely doesn’t have to mean working from home—and work friends don’t necessarily have to be people you work with. There’s a whole universe of remote workers who find public places to get things done. You’ll likely run into remote workers in places as wide-ranging as libraries, coffee shops, restaurants, and other public venues with free wifi; consider working from one of these spaces and try talking to your fellow telecommuters. Who knows—you may have lots of things in common and find yourself making new work friends in no time!
Make a better effort
Just because it gets harder to make work friends as a telecommuter doesn’t mean it’s impossible. If you’d like to make and keep work friends when working remotely, you’re going to have to put yourself out there. Use social networks and video conferencing tools to keep in touch on a regular basis. Keep each other up to date on how things are going by using available messaging resources (email, Hangouts, Slack, etc.). Organize after-work events and activities with colleagues so you can see each other more often. Work friendships are just like other types of friendships—they require effort on your part, so don’t forget to nurture these relationships.
Telecommuting may open up a world of new work options for you, but you don’t have to blindly accept the potential loneliness that some people experience when working remotely. Use the strategies and advice presented here to ensure that your work friendships are as satisfying as your work. Good luck!