Graham’s WFH Tip #9 – Find your Social – It doesn’t have to be about work all of the time

There are several things that people miss about the office and many of those are related to the social interactions that being in the same physical location enables.

I used to enjoy going “for a brew” with the people who worked on the desks around me. We’d talk about all sorts of things, sometimes work, but mostly it was a more social interaction. How are the kids? What did you think about that show last night? Weren’t the roads bad this morning? How was your last holiday? That kind of a thing. We’d often supplement this with a walk somewhere at lunchtime.

Some groups of people find social interaction easier than others, I suspect that some people need it more than others, but for many these interactions are particularly important. The challenge with home working is that it strips out the triggers for these interactions, there’s nothing stopping me having a social chat with someone as I go for my coffee, but there are no social prompts for this. For many modern workers and especially for home workers lunch is the thing you do sat at your desk while listening into another conference call, a drink is something you get while there’s a short lull between calls. The result is that this type of interplay has vanished.

Why does it matter? Speaking personally, I work better when I understand that what I am doing has meaning and purpose. The long list of emails requiring my response doesn’t give meaning to anything. It’s the personal connections across the team is what gives purpose to what I am doing.

We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.

Brené Brown

On a more practical basis having those social connections leads to notable changes in my thinking. Knowing a bit about a colleague’s home situation and how it influences the times when they prefer to work makes for a different approach to scheduling. Understanding that a co-worker is going through a stressful time at home influences my response to their desire for time off. Understanding someone’s total workload, and not just the part I’m interested in, affects my expectation of their ability to deliver. Celebrating a team members family news strengthens those connections that give meaning.

As a home worker you need to recognise this challenge of the missing triggers for interaction and be more intentional about creating space for these important conversations. I’m not naturally good at this, it feels strange to cold-call someone just for a chat. I know others who are far more instinctive at this type of thing, but for me I need to schedule it.

Every other Friday I have a call in my morning with team members for whom the time-zone works. It’s supposed to be 45 minutes, but often goes for the full hour. None of us are naturals at chatting and often fall into the trap of discussing a work activity before one of us pulls us up into the social. It’s only a small group with each one based in a different country and it’s fascinating to hear about the perspectives across two continents. Certain subjects come up regularly, but I love those times when we find a new avenue to explore. It’s not as natural as a chat during the walk to Tesco, we need to work at it a bit, but it is so, so valuable to do.

Whenever I’m in a one-to-one or a group of three meeting I try to include a social element to the conversation, it’s a hugely valuable aspect of working together as human being. I must admit that I’m more likely to look favourably on a request from someone I have chatted with. Wider than that, though, these interactions connect me with people in a way that adds to the meaning and purpose that Brene Brown talks about.

Your circumstances may make it possible for you to meet up physically with the people you work with. Make those opportunities a priority, they will make a difference to the way that you feel about the team that you work with. I’m no longer in that situation, but there are plenty of former colleagues in the vicinity who I make the effort to connect with.

One thing that I personally find tiring is being the initiator, I’m assuming that I’m not the only one judging by the number of people that reach out to me. This makes me very grateful for those that do. Although I find it tiring it’s always worthwhile so I’m off now to find someone to interact with.

Header Image: This is the view from the top of Masada in Israel. There’s a huge amount of history in this place. Just imagine what it took to build a palace up here over 2,000 years ago.

New to Graham’s WFH Tips? Here’s a handy list to help you catch up.

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