by Wayne Turmel
When we think about working remotely, we often think about how nice it would be just to get our work done without interruptions. We can set our own schedule (within limits, of course) and not get caught up in office politics and gossip. Not to mention having total control of our wardrobe choices and burning our neckties. But what if you (and me, I’m ashamed to admit) kind of like some of that stuff?
It’s often assumed that introverts are custom-made for remote work, which is kind of a drag when you realize that only 25% or so of the population is predominantly introverted. Extroverts, because we require stimulation and interaction with other people to be at the top of our game, are presumably at a bit of a disadvantage when left to our own devices. We can’t schmooze at the coffee machine or have access to someone a cubicle away. These labels tend to be extreme generalizations (if you look at my own MBTI, I’m an E on paper but the score says by only a small margin—I’m not as wild and crazy as that ENFP label suggests).
It’s true that there are some challenges for those of us who require more human interaction than others. I have a slightly extroverted work style, and I’m also an auditory learner. That means I need to talk things out when I’m processing certain kinds of tasks or information. This leads to a certain amount of talking to myself, which is not great for getting opposing viewpoints, and a certain frustration that I’m not necessarily being as creative and innovative as I’d like.
Here are some coping mechanisms for those of us who perhaps chafe at not having all the communication with other people we require.
Frequent, short communication helps.
I need to feel connected to my team and my manager, but I don’t want to be seen as needy or interrupting their work. One way I avoid this is by having shorter, more frequent conversations and contact with people I work with. This gives me enough to ease my concerns about contact, but I don’t suck up a lot of other people’s time and become a barrier to their productivity.
For example, I have regularly scheduled, one-on-one conversations with Kevin. That’s great. I also have a short instant-message exchange with him each day. It’s simply “good morning, here’s what I’m working on, is there anything I should know?” Sometimes I get a single line back, but that is enough for me to feel connected and know that I’m on the right track for the day. Other team members don’t need that, but that’s for them to decide. I can get on with my day with a clear head.
Work with fellow team members in the way that works best for them.
If I know that Person A is a “nose to the grindstone,” introverted type who doesn’t like to chit-chat on the phone, I shouldn’t reach out to them when I’m in the mood to talk. I’m going to annoy them and probably feel personally snubbed. On the other hand, I know that Person B is always good for a joke or a little personal conversation before we get down to business. On days when human contact is required, I will make a point of reaching out to that person.
Knowing each other’s work styles helps, and if you haven’t worked together long enough to create a strong relationship, consider using a tool like DISC or the Myers-Briggs to help guide you. You can get a FREE DISC assessment here
Get out of the house once in a while.
My wife and I are empty nesters, and she works out of the house. For a while, she was literally the only human contact I’d have Monday to Friday. No offense to my bride, but I was going crazy. I solved my occasional need to interact with other people in two ways. First, I would take time every couple of days to volunteer to run errands. Nothing long enough to impair my productivity, but an occasional grocery/dry cleaning run got me out of my office (and my own head.) The other thing, is I joined a writing group that meets every Wednesday night. I physically leave the house and interact with other people for a short period of time (which is about all I need…. Remember I’m a minor extrovert) have some fun, and clear my head. Outside activities and non-work related communication are important.
Working remotely presents unexpected challenges for everyone. Understanding the dynamics of how you, your team, and your organization function at their peaks will help you develop strategies to be true to yourself and still succeed.
If you lead a remote team and would like to do more to enhance your communication, we have the perfect course to help you do that. This course shows you how to take the information DISC provides and educate your team members on how they can work best with each other.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.