Even before the COVID-19 pandemic upended nearly everything about daily life, remote work was becoming more common. Then, seemingly overnight, most office workers were working remotely. Although some companies have welcomed teams back to the office, many people still work from home at least part-time. Estimates vary, but U.S. Census data reveals that nearly 18% of people still primarily work from home, and more than half of workers have jobs that allow for remote work.
For all the benefits of not having to head into the office—no commute, a flexible schedule, a more comfortable wardrobe—remote work means giving up one important element of office life: the ability to network and be social. And it’s not just the office that’s evolving. People no longer feel compelled to live so close to work, which can affect professional networks within cities. Networking while working from home can be a bit more challenging, but it’s still a critical element to your career success and sense of well-being.
Benefits to networking while remote
For many people, working from home is an opportunity to focus on work without the distraction of co-workers stopping by to chat or other interruptions. This might boost productivity, but not without a price.
Working long hours at home without any interpersonal interaction can take a toll on even the most introverted worker, leading to social isolation, loneliness, and stress. Just having a colleague nearby to collaborate or vent with can help alleviate stress—plus, it’s much easier to know when to shut down for the day when all your co-workers are heading out.
Investing time and energy in networking while working from home may not solve all these problems—after all, it’s easy to answer “just one more email” when you don’t have a long commute ahead of you—but trying to connect can help alleviate the isolation. Networking is also critical to career success. Most people find jobs via their professional networks, and establishing good working relationships with colleagues and others in your industry can open the door to new mentors and exciting opportunities.
How to network while working from home
Networking is all about making meaningful connections. Without the opportunity for in-person interaction, it may take a bit more effort to build those relationships, but it’s not impossible. Whether you work from home full- or part-time, try some of these strategies to grow your network from home.
Check in with co-workers
You might not be in the same office, but you can still keep up with your colleagues. Make a point of connecting with your team members every few days, even if it’s just to say “hi.” Look for social channels on your company’s messaging platforms to chat about last night’s game, swap theories about the latest episode of the show everyone’s streaming, or send birthday wishes.
Join virtual communities
No matter what role or industry you’re in, there’s a virtual community of like-minded individuals. LinkedIn, Facebook, Slack, and other social sites have thousands of groups designed specifically for networking. When you join, commit to making meaningful contributions to discussions and sharing your ideas, opinions, and insights with others.
Connect with your alumni organization
Your college or university’s alumni association is designed to help graduates stay connected to each other and their alma mater. Get involved with your school’s association by joining their online groups, attending local events, and connecting with fellow alumni in your industry.
Visit a co-working space
Working remotely doesn’t mean you’re only working at home. If your city has a co-working space, think about how a shared environment could benefit you. You’ll have a chance to meet other local professionals from other fields and expand your network. And when you work near people from a variety of industries and backgrounds, you can learn from their different perspectives and experiences. You never know when you’ll get the solution to a tricky problem or inspiration from someone new.
Join a local networking group
Many Chambers of Commerce and professional organizations host regular networking events for local professionals. Check their calendar of events for networking breakfasts or after-hours events and plan to attend. If the availability of remote work during the pandemic inspired you to move to a new community, this can be an effective way to learn about your new neighbors and their businesses.
Giving your time to a worthy cause can help you feel more fulfilled and reduce the isolation that comes from remote work. When you volunteer, you can grow your professional network to include people who share your passions, and perhaps learn new skills that expand your career opportunities.
Take a class
Build your skillset and your professional network by taking a professional development course. Check out the offerings at your local university or community college. Even online courses require interaction between students, so you’ll have the chance to engage with other professionals while you learn.
The world of work is constantly changing, and remote workers need to be prepared to embrace new approaches to how they work—and that includes finding creative ways to network from home.
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