Five Best Practices for Remote Work Social Wellness- A cheatsheet from a former teacher!
I was 22 when I walked into a classroom of 17-year-olds in Brooklyn and put my name on the whiteboard. I remained a schoolteacher for 13 years.
I’ve met thousands of students, hundreds of teachers, and worked with dozens of administrators. For 13 years I walked into work and spent time with people, face to face.
In the classroom, there was so much laughter yet also a river of tears. There were days that my stomach hurt from giggling so hard with students and other days I went home with my eyes red and my shirt sleeves wet from crying.
Through our shared experiences, I formed tremendous bonds with my coworkers and many became some of my closest friends. Work was hard and we needed to talk about it. A lot of that chatter happened in the teacher’s lounge, but most of it happened at the bar.
When I started working remotely, I immediately lost all of that.
With a new remote job, I gained wonderful independence that allowed me to travel but I lost the interconnectedness of a shared workspace.
I didn’t know how to work well with people I didn’t know anything about. I tend to be informal and I like joking to break the ice, but that’s not-so-easy in a video chat with a bunch of strangers. I had to learn.
While I’m no longer a teacher anymore, I’m happy to share my remote work cheatsheet in the hopes that you won’t have to learn the hard way!
Social Well-being While Working Remotely
Greet your coworkers
When you arrive at the office you normally say hello, why stop that practice now? It’s simple and easy to say “hi” or “good morning” when you arrive in the video call or open your Slack. Not only is it friendly, but it also marks the beginning of your workday.
Say goodbye to mark the end of your workday for bonus points. Keeping the work/life distinction helps maintain balance.
Share (some) personal information
Share a picture of your cat, talk about your favorite new recipe, and mention how your kids are distracting you. These things make you a relatable human being.
This is not wasted time. The coworkers that I have friendly relationships with are my go-to people when I’m stressed and need support, but also when I’m excited and want some feedback on a new idea. Together we form an excellent team.
Panion Communities is an easy way for teams to share personal information and browse profiles to learn new things about their coworkers. We can also chat about random things on a platform that is totally separate from our productivity tools.
Remember that your coworkers don’t need to know EVERYTHING about you. Think first, if it’s really necessary to share that picture of your friend’s brother’s co-worker's new baby. What can you share that showcases your individuality and might bring value to others?
Organize Virtual Happy Hours
It’s not drinking alone if you’ve got your coworkers on the screen! We still need a space to complain, joke around, and bounce ideas off of each other.
My team has done this on official terms during the workday as a ‘Fika’ (Swedish coffee/hangout time) and through this time I’ve been able to learn a lot more about my colleagues from around the world.
Check-in throughout the day
I often like to check in with my colleagues on a personal level throughout the workday. I’m respectful of their time of course, but I highly value small social interactions that are seemingly unconnected to our tasks.
Sometimes they want to talk. Sometimes I want to talk. The more connected we are, the more trust there is between us. When I need help, I know who I can go to and I hope my colleagues know they can come to me. Making myself available and asking how they facilitate our relationship both in and out of work.
Encourage and Praise
Who doesn’t like to be told they are doing a good job? Sometimes it’s hard to know when we are on the right track and kind words from our coworkers can give us a huge boost.
It’s normal to miss the office and the camaraderie that comes with the excitement of great ideas and commiserating over shared frustrations. Remote work doesn’t mean this has to be over. It simply requires a creative approach and a concerted effort.
We’re all testing this new way of working together. Feel free to cheat off of me, that’s right, I don’t mind if you copy my homework if it means you’ll feel more socially included at work.