Keeping in Touch With Others While Working From Home

Posted 1. December 2020. 7 min read.
#covid-19#working#remote

Most people need regular contact with other humans to maintain their mental health. Studies show that face-to-face communication can make you more resilient to stress and viruses. Something as simple as giving someone a high-five can increase the amount of oxytocin in your brain. Oxytocin plays a critical role in regulating stress.

Obviously, the global pandemic makes it harder than ever for people to socialize. Nearly all states restrict social interactions to slow the spread of coronavirus. Restaurants, bars, music venues, and other popular gathering places are either closed or subject to regulations designed to contain the virus by keeping people apart.

Aside from losing recreational socialization, millions of people have lost human contact at work. At the end of June 2020, researchers at Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR) reported that 42% of people were working from home. Additionally, 33% of the U.S. labor force wasn’t working at all. Only 26% of workers were going to their places of business to perform their jobs.

It doesn’t take a Stanford senior fellow to see how the pandemic makes it difficult for people to stay in touch while working from home. You probably feel the negative effects right now. You want to connect with your colleagues, friends, and family members, but you also don’t want to risk spreading disease to your loved ones.

While nothing can truly replace the benefits of in-person interactions, there are some things that you can do to make the best of a bad situation. Start by trying these five ways to keep in touch with others while working from home.

Schedule Times for Virtual Visits

Scheduling times for virtual visits may sound a little more formal than necessary. Without a plan, though, inertia could keep you on the couch, unhappily scrolling through titles on Netflix.

When making a schedule, think about how often you want to connect with the people in your life. You might want to “visit” with close relatives once or twice a week. Good friends might deserve a weekly virtual visit. A more distant relationship could benefit from a monthly discussion.

Tips for making this strategy work:

  • Create a contact list of the people you typically see during the week or month.
  • Add birthdays and other special occasions when you might want to spend a few minutes congratulating people virtually.
  • Set reminders that will alert you half an hour before your virtual visit happens — many videoconferencing apps have this as a built-in feature.
  • Confirm with people a day before you plan to meet, just in case their schedules have changed.

Find Teleconferencing Apps You Love

Remote workers have relied on teleconferencing apps for years. During 2020, the apps have become essential to staying in contact with colleagues and loved ones. A few years ago, you probably wouldn’t have thought that you’d spend an hour on a Zoom call with a friend who lives in town. Now, it has become one of the safest, most common ways for people to see each other.

Don’t assume that the app you use for remote work will have the features you want during virtual visits with friends. Take some time to learn about your options and compare them. Most teleconferencing and videoconferencing applications have free services, so you can try them without any commitment.

Some of the most popular options include:

Tips for making this strategy work:

  • Decide whether you want to use an app-based or browser-based service.
  • Get a camera, microphone, and speaker that will enhance the experience.
  • Turn off bandwidth-eating devices in your house to prevent buffering.
  • Talk to friends ahead of time to decide which service to use.

Play Online Games

You don’t need to invest in expensive consoles to enjoy multiplayer games with your friends. Many titles are available as one-time purchases, low-cost subscriptions, or even for free. Granted, you tend to get more features from paid options. If you don’t want to spend money, though, you and a friend can play games like:

Others options to explore include:

  • TableTopia, a membership-based sandbox platform with over 1,500 card and board games.
  • Fortnite, a free-to-play adventure game with more than 350 million players around the world.
  • ArchAge, a quest-based game that lets you join teams with 40+ players.
  • World of Warcraft, one of the original MMORPGs that still attracts thousands of players to a world that still gets regular updates.

Of course, if you already own a console with internet access, you can play a wide range of games by signing up for their memberships.

Tips for making this strategy work:

  • Choose options that meet the interests of you and your friends.
  • Get monitors, controllers, and other equipment you might need to play.
  • Talk to players to decide whether they’re comfortable paying for some games.
  • Schedule a time to meet online.

Join Virtual Watch Parties for Movies and Series

Do you miss gathering with friends for movie nights? Video streaming services feel your pain, so many of them have added free “watch party” features.

You and other viewers will probably need to pay for memberships before you can create or join watch parties. Still, it’s the safest, tech-savvy way to chat with friends while watching your favorite movies and television shows. Some options to explore include:

  • Netflix Party (aka Teleparty), which has excellent video quality and lets you chat on screen via text.
  • Hulu Watch Party, which has good streaming quality and text chat but doesn’t give you video or voice chat.
  • Amazon Watch Party, which lets you watch Amazon Prime content with friends as long as you all use desktop or laptop computers (mobile not available).
  • Scener, a third-party video chat service that you can add to Netflix, Hulu, Vimeo, and Disney+, and other popular streaming platforms.

Tips for making this strategy work:

  • Schedule a precise time for your movie night.
  • Make sure everyone has the accounts and equipment they need to participate.
  • Get your popcorn ready!

Get Physical With Handwritten Letters

Have screens started to seem more real than the world around you? Too much screentime is bad for everyone, so you should take breaks from your computer, smartphone, and TV when possible. You already spend most of your remote workday sitting in front of a computer. After business hours, set aside some time to handwrite letters to the people you miss.

Handwritten letters feel more special than emails, texts, and social media posts. You can make your letters even more intriguing with drawings, decorations, and small gifts that slide into the envelope easily.

Tips for making this strategy work:

  • You probably don’t write many letters by hand, so schedule time at least once a week to write to your friends and family members.
  • Create a spot in your home (a desk, table, etc.) where you keep the materials you need to write letters.
  • Encourage your loved ones to reply with their own handmade work.

Conclusion

Remote work can make you people feel disconnected. The pandemic has made feelings of isolation even more intense. Just because you can’t meet in person doesn’t mean you can’t keep in touch with others while working from home, though.

© 2021 Derek Muensterman
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