Out of Office

Working Remotely Can Be Isolating; Here's How to Remain Professionally Engaged and Socially Connected

By Michael Huber, PMI-ACP, PMP

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Many people envision working remotely as a dream—and it can be. However, it can be challenging for remote workers to avoid a sense of isolation and stay engaged. In my six years of working remotely, I have found three ways to help me avoid these obstacles.

Communicate and Volunteer

Within my first month of working away from the office, I began experiencing a sense of isolation. This feeling grew, and within two months I realized it was an obstacle. I approached members of my management team, and they began offering me opportunities to work with external team members on side projects such as process improvement. Since these teams met in person once a quarter, I got a welcome break from my solitude.

I also began attending monthly meetings with my local PMI chapter. Meeting new peers, with whom I had much in common, offered a sense of connection and fulfillment I had been missing as a remote employee.

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Log Off

Remote employees spend more time on phones, laptops and other devices than most people. Many of us wake up and begin working immediately, instead of sharing good-morning chats with co-workers. We often eat a solitary lunch, and we also miss out on colleagues’ spontaneous invitations to go out after work. That's why it's particularly critical for remote employees to reduce unnecessary electronic communication and embrace real-life relationships.

I have noticed that taking a break from my phone and computer encourages me to seek more human interaction. To begin, you can remove devices from your bedroom. To take it a step further, unplug your wireless router at a specific time each evening. And having one electronic-device-free day each week can offer even more incentive to reconnect with people face to face.

Seek Out Training

Remote workers might miss out on informal tips from co-workers as well as more formal workplace training. But enrolling in a specialized certification or higher education degree program is a great way to stay up to date. I earned both my Project Management Professional (PMP)® and PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® certifications while working remotely, and they both cemented my knowledge as a project manager and gave me additional confidence. I recommend studying for certifications during low-demand times such as November and December, when many of your co-workers are on holiday and your workload is lighter.

Each remote employee has to find an individualized work/life balance plan. We might need to try harder than most to build professional relationships and sharpen our interpersonal skills. But the result is worth the effort—there is no substitute for a deep sense of connectedness and balance. PM

img Michael Huber, PMI-ACP, PMP, is a technical project/program manager at Sprint, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

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