We often extol the many advantages of working outside of the traditional office. Although few people, if any, lament the loss of a cubicle, it’s true that loneliness and isolation are often cited as major drawbacks to remote work. That’s why community matters.
Why Community Matters in Remote Work
As it turns out, there are many psychological benefits to being part of a community: offering and soliciting support, sharing resources, inspiring others, and building connections are just a few. You can cultivate friendships, teach or mentor others, or land your own amazing mentor.
Research also has confirmed “that individuals must often find sources of meaning, identity and support in the workplace instead of their neighborhoods, because it is where they spend most of their time.” But what happens when your workplace doesn’t have a physical location?
Harvard Business Review further emphasized the need for community in its recent article uncovering why people thrive in coworking spaces. It may not come as a total shock, of course, that human beings are social creatures who crave interaction with one another. After all, we’ve been accustomed to learning and working in public environments for the majority of our lives.
It might also be why remote workers are flocking to organizations like Workfrom, which provides community-sourced information on workspaces in more than 1,200 cities worldwide. Beyond its handy listing service that tells you how loud a potential workspace is or if your dog is welcome to join you, Workfrom has cultivated a community affectionately referred to as its Tribe. Members swap travel stories, share advice for working in new places, and collaborate with one another on creative projects in a private Slack channel.
Whether you’re kicking off a professional adventure as a digital nomad, trailing a spouse, becoming a newly-minted expat, or just beginning a remote role, being part of a community is key.
Here are nine ways to start building relationships, wherever your work (and life) take you:
- Volunteering. Volunteering is a fantastic way to meet new people who share the same interests. Always loved animals, but on the road too much to adopt a pet? Consider volunteering at a local animal shelter and give some love to animals awaiting their forever homes. Maybe you’ve moved somewhere that your native language is in demand; offering up pro bono lessons through a community organization is a rewarding way to give back and get to know a new group of people.
- Coworking Spaces. I know what you’re thinking: but nobody actually talks to one another in coworking spaces! Well, my friends, I can’t argue with you there. This may be the case most of the time. However, these spaces often host panel discussions, evening workshops, and other events intended to draw in professionals from specific industries. What better way to mix and mingle than to have an icebreaker in the form of a guest speaker?
- Traveling Cohorts. There’s a reason why companies like Remote Year, Hacker Paradise, and We Roam have garnered interest from investors and applicants alike. They’re appealing to what many consider to be a bucket-list dream: the opportunity to live and work overseas with a carefully selected group, sans the hassle of planning any of the logistics. From securing coworking spaces, visas, and temporary accommodations to coordinating professional development activities, they aim to make sampling the digital nomad lifestyle headache free.
- Remote Communities. Socializing and networking can happen exclusively online as well, of course. As mentioned, Workfrom has a 24/7 community with members representing all time zones who regularly connect with one another. Other excellent remote communities are accessible through social media, including regularly scheduled Twitter chats. See #bufferchat or #peepchat for those interested in social media, the future of work, or creative pursuits.
- Alumni Events. Does your college or university have networking meet-ups or other get-togethers in your neck of the woods? Many institutions have regional chapters that host all kinds of events, and some even have global chapters in international hubs. (Carnegie Mellon, for example, has a vast global alumni network that hosts both onsite and virtual events.) The next time you’re in a major city, take a moment to seek out a chapter director or drop a note to your alma mater’s alumni relations team. They’ll likely be more than happy to help.
- Sports or Artistic Hobbies. Yes, the paint-and-sip trend has taken the United States by storm…and really, who wouldn’t want to fancy themselves an artist while partaking of a delectable vintage? Aside from these paid experiences, you might also seek out free or low-cost art classes in museums or scenic outdoor spots. Building an enriching class into your routine helps you get to know a few friendly faces, and for the athletically inclined, many cities have regular running groups or yoga classes in parks or by the beach. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
- Face-to-Face Meetups. Craft beer enthusiasts. Pug owners. Minimalists. You can find a special group for just about any demographic these days. Check out MeetUp to see what’s happening near you or to organize a face-to-face group for your own interest. If you’re of the entrepreneurial persuasion, look into Startup Grind, a global organization with chapters in over 200 cities and 85 countries. Chances are, there’s an upcoming event near you.
- Professional Organizations. Whether you’re a mechanical engineer, digital marketer, instructional designer, or photographer, there’s a professional association for you. (If your vocation isn’t listed above, I guarantee that a group exists for you.) As a member of one of these organizations, you have a built-in access point for special events that are relevant to your industry. If you want to take your involvement to the next level, ask about ways in which you can help your local chapter manage its next event or gathering.
- School Groups. This is for all the parents, stepparents, and guardians out there. If you’ve got kids, you’re likely already connected to what they’re doing in school, be it through a Parent-Teacher Association, after school activity, or sport. You can offer your time and talents to help out, and in turn, meet other adults who share at least one thing in common with you: you’re raising children being educated in the same space. That’s a starting point for conversation.