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How to stay social when working from home

06 April 2022

Working from home comes with numerous positives; no commute, a long lie-in and a relaxed working schedule that you don’t get when you’re in the office and you need to look busy in front of your boss.

But it’s not all smiles and rainbows and one of the biggest negatives that come from working from home is the lack of social interaction. If you’re used to the hustle and bustle of an office, followed by after-work drinks, home working can be a shock to the system.

Our personalities are all different, and it's likely an introvert may not experience the lack of social interactions in quite the same way as an extrovert. However, whether you prefer time alone or in groups, keeping social while working from home is something we should all pay attention to.

Here are six ways to keep social while working from home.

Use your morning

By not going into the office you do, in theory, have more free time in the morning before starting work. While it may be tempting to lounge around in the bed until 5 minutes before you need to log on, you’re much better off rising at a decent time and using that time to get some of your social needs. This might involve meeting a friend for a coffee and a walk around the park, or simply making a phone call before you get started.  

Group Chats

Yes everybody is sick to death by zoom meetings at this point, but group chats can still be an excellent way of adding some social interaction to your day. We’d suggest not overloading the numbers here as nobody gets much from a group chat with 100 people where only a few people do the talking.

Also, try and encourage employees to turn on the camera during group meetings. There are several reasons why somebody might choose not to have the camera on, but staring at multiple black screens during a group chat is not a pleasant experience.

Group chats are often notorious for dragging on much longer than really needed, so if you’re going to have them, set a clear schedule and don’t overrun if at all possible.   

Virtual Lunches/Coffee Breaks

OK, watching a person on-screen eating might not always be a pretty sight, but virtual lunches or coffee breaks are excellent ways to increase your social time while working from home. In this case, it’s simply about mimicking an activity that you did in the office and if you and a college regularly had lunch together while there, why not do it virtually.

A quick online coffee chat for 10 or 15 minutes is not only a great way to relax for a short period but a good way of ensuring you get some social interaction. This will probably take a little more planning than it would in the office, but it’s relatively easy to coordinate a time to share a break.

Competitions/Challenges

An excellent way of adding some fun to your working day while also ensuring some social interaction between your team is to have company competitions or challenges that can be judged online.

The sky’s the limit with what you want to try, but things like worst dressed or a steps challenge always work well. It’s important to know your team here because a badly thought through challenge can be a tough sell. While a vigorous exercise challenge might be right up your street, for others it might be their worst nightmare. Find a fun challenge that everybody can take part in and your chances of participation are so much higher.

Water-cooler channels

One aspect of office working that we’ll never be able to fully replicate are those spontaneous chats that spring up next to the water cooler. It’s long been a great place to have a quick catch up (while also staying hydrated) and it’s one factor that many working from home frequently comment on missing.

While it’s impossible to replicate the exact situation, some companies have had great success with setting up water-cooler channels on Slacker, Whatsapp or Google Teams, where employees can stop by virtually for a quick informal chat.

It’s important to state that conversations that take place around the water cooler are rarely about work and that’s exactly how a water cooler channel should be. Make it clear to everybody involved that this is an area for an informal chat on non-work-related subjects.

The Real World  

It doesn’t matter how good your virtual interactions can be, nothing beats good old fashioned face to face interactions. Out of work team events can be tricky as nobody likes being dragged to an awkward party by a boss who doesn’t understand you’d rather have a break from your colleagues.

If everybody is working from home, however, sentiment will probably be very different. But still, it’s important to choose events and venues that can be enjoyed by all and even better, if you can schedule it at a time when people are supposed to be working, even better.

Before home working, people often felt pressured by out of office events, but if the entire team is now out of the office, these could be the very few times that you see everybody together.

Social Animals  

As we said earlier, we are all different and some may need more social interaction than others. But humans by design are social creatures and while we may thrive by working from home, it does mean that we have less of something inherently good for us.

Adding some social time to your working day might take a bit more planning than it did in the office, but the benefits on your mental wellbeing are perfectly clear.