Developing Your Career

Has Working Virtually Started to Feel Like House Arrest?

By Greg Simpson on December 11, 2012

Today technology allows people to work from virtually anywhere there is an Internet connection. And given some of the business benefits, from cost savings, increases in productivity, improved morale, to reduction in environmental impact and enhancement to continuity-of-operations strategies – to name just a few – it’s not surprising that telecommuting is becoming increasingly popular. And the workforce is ready. In fact, in January 2012 Reuters predicted that telecommuting “is a trend that has grown and one which looks like it will continue with 34 percent of connected workers saying they would be very likely to telecommute on a full-time basis if they could.”

But as we create a new culture of virtual workers, a little self-awareness is important. Telecommuting isn’t for everyone. While working virtually sounds great – and there are a lot of advantages – the isolation can be difficult for individuals who draw energy from being around other people. For these individuals – typically defined as Extroverts – working virtually often becomes a source of stress after spending extended periods of time alone. They crave the sense of community, shared purpose and collaboration an office provides.

What are some ways to get your “people fix” when working virtually?

  1. Reach out. Cultivate relationships with other virtual workers in your organization. Pick up the phone and call instead of sending an email. Help to foster connections by making it a point to learn a little personal information about your virtual co-workers such as birthdays, names of spouses and kids, and where they live.
  2. Find a local internet cafe. A Starbucks can be a hub for virtual workers. Changing up your environment and being around people can ease the stress of feeling isolated.
  3. Attend networking events. Register for professional conferences and attend meetings in person. The socialization and networking will recharge your batteries and give you new perspectives.
  4. Control the silence. Many virtual workers find that classical music can be compatible (and even helpful) with concentration. Any music with lyrics will compete for your brain’s attention.
  5. Do lunch. Just because you’re working from home, doesn’t mean you’re under house arrest. You’re entitled to a lunch break, so get out and enjoy one.
  6. Skype. Collaborate with co-workers via video conferencing to increase face time and conduct occasional conference calls that include other virtual employees.
  7. Dress for success.  Avoid hanging out in pajamas or sweats all day.  Business-casual attire will help create an optimal state of mind. It’s a scientifically proven method that will boost your attitude, confidence, performance and outlook.  And you’ll be more likely to reach out and get out.

Telecommuting offers distinct advantages to both the employee and employer. But if you’re an extrovert, spending your days alone, understand your basic needs and adopt strategies that will keep you energized, productive and happy.

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