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Author: Michael Huber

Overcoming Isolation as a Remote Employee

We all strive to not only be successful in our professions as project managers, but want to ensure that in achieving those successes we take time to give ourselves new mental stimulation to avoid the pitfalls of stagnation.

This can prove to be challenging in today’s fast paced environment as a remote employee. Many people that work in an office environment see working remotely as a dream job, and it can be.

For extroverts it can prove to be very isolating and the consequences of that can be as minor as stagnation with one’s career, or as major as battling severe depression. I have been a remote project manager for the past six years and have battled both. I would like to share ideas and facilitate conversations on how to overcome these obstacles by opening a new dimension of working remotely while experiencing success, connecting with yourself, and furthering your career.

Today with advances in technology the impression is given that we are more connected with people and involved with their lives through social media outlets. This is merely an illusion of connectedness. Even with 5,000 friends on Facebook we are in fact becoming more isolated and losing the connection with our actual human emotions by masking our true appearances and developing an online persona. Which is not who we represent in real life. Working remotely can amplify those personas and actually suppress our true selves. This can be an extremely slow process and may not be noticeable to yourself or those close to you until you find yourself in a depressed state where you begin to lose productivity and interest in activities in which you used to find happiness.

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While working remotely I have found one of the best ways to avoid feeling isolated is to find or build a community. This can be accomplished by using resources within or outside of your organization. Build a strong relationship with your management and ensure they understand your needs. This can be accomplished by suggesting ideas such as face to face meetings, quarterly team building activities, or joining committees. These are ways to increase team productivity. Volunteering within your local PMI Chapter will provide you with new relationships, visibility, and a way to earn PDUs.

Take breaks from your electronic devices. It is a healthy habit to encourage more human interaction. Make it a point to not bring your cell phone or laptop into your bedroom and try to take one day off a week from using all electronic devices. Remote employees spend more time on phones, laptops, and other devices than most people that go into the office. Many of us wake up and begin our daily work immediately whereas others have an hour or so in the morning with family and water cooler talk with their coworkers. It is critical for remote employees to maintain discipline and reduce electronic communication and embrace real life relationships.

Removing geographic boundaries is another way to be able to satisfy your social needs. It provides a unique experience that will foster creativity by meeting new people in a never ending changing kaleidoscope of experiences. How much change do you require in order to reinvigorate yourself? It can be as simple as vacationing to an island for a long weekend and working your normal hours while enjoying the ocean during your time off, or selling everything you own and moving to a new country to absorb a new culture. There are no geographical limits as to what you can accomplish. Traveling is a great way to foster innovation and breed creativity. New solutions can be discovered by making new Global connections that offer different perspectives on problems. As a devoted project manager, you can introduce the efficiency and effectiveness to your organization. A project manager with the ability to work remotely can stimulate their mind and body through travel and change. It provides a way to refresh your perspective of life both personally and professionally.

Remote employees have to embrace an individualized work/life balance plan. The definition can be anything from living in a foreign country, joining an organizational committee, or reconnecting with yourself through nature. We need to continue to enhance our communications on a new level and use our interpersonal skills to build and improve relationships within our profession. This doesn’t and shouldn’t have to be work, it should be an enjoyable and creative experience.