When the world shifted to a more remote and blended work environment, I was overjoyed! I was gaining back precious commuting hours every week with my family, my carbon footprint was shrinking, and so were the piles of laundry! Over the course of two years, I shifted from a hybrid work model to being fully remote and working from home as a member of the ConvergenceCoaching® team. An added bonus was our Anytime, Anywhere Work™ (ATAWW) model. The ATAWW approach allows flexibility around when my work gets accomplished and where I choose to work from. For example, I can choose to start my workday early to attend my daughter’s Christmas play in the afternoon or work a little later in the evening after dinner because I had a doctor’s appointment earlier in the day. This isn’t something I have to get approved for – my leaders trust me to fit work into my life and life into my work and to meet my responsibilities in both realms. ConvergenceCoaching fully embraces flexibility around the “where” I can get my work done; planes, trains and automobiles, coffee shops and carpool lines, basketball practice and on my back porch enjoying the fall weather.
As a newcomer to the fully remote world, I had reservations about how effective my onboarding and training would be. Having come from an in-person office job, I worried about learning the ins and outs of Teams and Zoom, stressed about screen sharing, and how I would appear on camera compared to my 3D self. The fear of the unknown was quickly curtailed as I mastered the screen share, became comfortable on camera, and realized training remotely produced the same results as training in person.
As the anxiety of starting a new job faded away and my need for concentrated, daily learning began to taper off, I found myself left with a feeling that I just couldn’t shake. I had low energy, I felt flat, and I struggled to focus. And then one day, it clicked! I was lonely!
As an off-the-charts extrovert, I am fueled by those around me. My mental and physical energy relies on the recharge that social stimulation provides. I thrive in live conversations. They get my creative juices flowing and verbalizing my thoughts out loud is how I best brainstorm and develop ideas.
Of all the uncertainties I had about working remotely, I had not considered how the human connectedness would work, or how the lack of it would affect my mental health. Lucky for me, I have a supportive and well-armed team that showed up with new strategies for me to add to my toolbelt!
In the hope of helping other struggling extroverts, I have listed my top 5 solutions for embracing the remote world as an extrovert.
- Tell someone! Let your team know that you are feeling disconnected and ask for suggestions or solutions. If you don’t clue them into the struggle, they won’t know you need help.
- Share your communication preferences with your Team. My communication preference is a phone/Team call. When the situation allows for it, I opt for this communication method over email or Team’s chat.
- Short bursts of physical activity. I need to be mindful that not everyone is an extrovert. And, while I rely on these conversations and time together for energy, I have also found ways to boost my energy without risking draining the battery of my introverted teammates. The Pomodoro Timer has proven to be a great tool to utilize. The timer is a google extension that prompts me at different intervals to take “break time.” When my timer goes off, I find a physical task to complete. This could be a quick vacuum, folding a load of laundry, or taking a 10-minute walk. These small breaks boost my energy which in turn increases my level of productivity.
- Make some noise! As an extrovert, my surroundings influence my level of productivity, and working from home led me to discover that I find silence to be distracting, deafening even. Listening to music and podcasts breaks up the silence and boosts my mood and creativity. Sometimes all it takes is just to turn up the music or stand up and rock out with a 5-minute solo dance party to get me back on track.
- Schedule times to meet at the “virtual water cooler”. My team schedules bi-weekly video calls that are open for all members of our Team to join. Sometimes we hold these calls while sipping our morning coffee, other times we have an open lunch where team members come and go as their schedules allow, and sometimes we take a quick 15 minutes to have an afternoon snack together.
Life in the virtual workplace doesn’t have to be a struggle for those of us who crave 3D human interaction. We have solutions!