Tackling Remote Work’s Biggest (Personal) Challenge

I love remote work. It lets me be me, without getting in the way of a career I’m passionate about. Plus, the money is nice.

While I took to it like a duck to water, the same cannot be said for other people. Sure, there are benefits but it also comes with quite a few downsides.

If you’ve sat in an office for most of your professional life, switching to a work from home position is a big change. You’ve got issues with communication: forget about sauntering up to your colleague’s desk or nipping down the hall. You have to call them  (sometimes on a phone! ) or at least send a message. Even then, they may not reply but you need an answer NOW…

If you work in a globally distributed company, you may have a few time zone issues. Of course, that’s something any half-decent project manager can work around.

You may, however, be very easily distracted by housework. That certainly brings some people’s productivity down.

To top it all off, in spite of the “freedom” remote work brings… you may end up grinding more than your in-office counterparts.

But wait, there’s more!

Telecommuters find that working remotely can increase loneliness.

This affects even those of us who strongly prefer working from home.

I guess I’m a bit of an odd fish in this sense. Working on my own usually means I’ve got far more social energy than I would if I spend every day in an office, surrounding by people. Once I’ve closed my laptop, I can’t wait to get out into the world and spend some good, quality time with people.

beer hand
…and booze.

However, not everyone is wired the same way. Work often becomes a large part of most people’s social lives. In some cases, it more or less is their social life. I find this very strange because I prefer to hang out with people different to the ones I work with, but each to their own.

So, when you’re suddenly thrown into a “remote” environment and all your interactions are done via email, phone or video call… It can get very lonely very fast.

Since many of us are creatures of habit, its often difficult to break out of the cycles we find ourselves in. Suddenly, you realize you haven’t left the house or physically interacted with a single person all week.

What, then, can telecommuters do to ensure they get regular, healthy social contact? Coworking spaces can ease the burden but let’s be realistic: there might not be one near you. Or it might be ridiculously expensive.

Unfortunately, this means taking your social life into your own hands. Luckily, it’s not as difficult as you think.

Creating and maintaining a healthy social life

The good news is that maintaining active social contact and putting yourself in a position when you regularly meet new people isn’t at all that difficult. It does require that you have a bit of confidence in yourself, though. You should at least be comfortable talking to new people.

NOTE: If you want a wealth of ideas and tips on improving your social life, check out these experts tips on how to make new friends.

 

So how do you make new friends? Well, you can…

  • Join specialist interest groups. Look for Meetup groups in your area and make a commitment to actually attend them. Preferably go to groups centered around a topic that interests you. And yes, that topic can just be “drinking” if you’re as devout a barfly as I am.
  • Attending networking events. This isn’t just great for your social life. It can also do wonders for your career. Remote workers tend to be physically isolated and have fewer options when it comes to networking. This is something you need to take into your own hands.
  • You can still do a lot of it online. I’ve mentioned how digital nomad communities can help you make new friends before you arrive in a new destination. These online groups centering around remote work and the nomad lifestyle shouldn’t be your only source of networking but rather, they should complement it. Additionally, these communities are great for making contacts in your new chosen destination.

Again, don’t forget to check out the expert tips above as well! Different techniques work for different people. Additionally, consider your online networking/socializing as a complement to getting out there and interacting with the real world.

The Key to Expanding Your Social Circle: Stay active, be patient

Making new friends and connections is a lot like applying for a remote (or any!) job. You could get one tomorrow but it is more likely to take a while. It has happened to me but hitting things off with someone straight off the bat doesn’t always occur.

The key here is remaining patient and knowing that good things are around the corner. You just have to sow the seeds yourself first.

What Can Digital Nomad Communities Do for Me?

For the introverts among us, the following is unfortunately true: people need people.

Human beings are social animals. Even those of us who prefer limited social contact need it sometimes. That’s why online communities have always been popular and will always remain popular.

That’s also why online communities based on specific niches and interests do well (if that niche is big enough).

For the working globetrotters among us, online digital nomad communities serve to fulfill that need. These platforms let you chat with other nomads, exchange ideas and can even be used to network (important even if you have a permanent remote job – even more so if you’re a freelancer). On top of that, they’re a handy place to make new friends.

bloody hands
Don’t let the above picture alarm you – meeting strangers off the Internet is less risky these days (though a hint of caution is ALWAYS advised).

Believe me, as a digital nomad you’ll need to learn how to make friends. Not everyone can just wander into a bar and start chatting to people. Starting friendships online offers a way of easing you into the process (not very different from online dating – just with fewer dick pics… we hope).

With all of that said, probably one of the biggest advantages of digital nomad communities is…

…the ability to contact other nomads already living in your new destination.

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty of this particular type of community and see how exactly they can benefit you as a nomad. Maybe you already had an idea – but now its time to execute it.

Networking: Speak to other nomads in your industry

With the rise of remote work, it’s easier than ever to network without having to go to boring business meetups. Social media allows for a fluid exchange between people in the same industry – and that’s truly a blessing. Especially as a freelancing nomad, you should always be on the lookout for new gigs and opportunities. This means cultivating relationships.

The likes of social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook can help you network with professionals in your industry who may or may not be nomadic. However, digital nomad communities will get you in touch with those who are not only in your industry, but who also know the nomadic life. Your unique experiences may very well help you land a new gig, part-time job or full-time remote position.

Get the lowdown on your new home, before you travel there

Are you currently living in Strasbourg, France but looking to move further east – like Berlin, or even Kiev? Sure, there are a lot of ways you can find out about your new prospective home before your plane even touches down. Plenty of travel sites and blogs are available – you can look at cost-of-living stats and even connect with expat and international groups in the major cities of that region (which I would highly recommend).

Online digital nomad communities can offer you that – and more. If there are a few nomads living (or who have lived) in your next chosen destination, you can strike up a conversation and ask them what it was like. They can give you insight specifically unique to nomads (such as how easy it is to find affordable, low-cost accommodation) and how much coworking spaces cost.

Make friends before you arrive

Okay, I wouldn’t call complete strangers “friends” just yet – but digital nomad communities can give you the opportunity to connect with people in real life. If there are any nomads living in your destination city, simply hit them up and see if they’d like to go for a drink, show you around etc. It can be a good way of combating the loneliness that often creeps up when you arrive in a new place for the first time.

And of course, meeting a new person can cause a chain reaction and get you introduced to others.

So then, what are some good digital nomad communities?

You can find a good list of them digital nomad communities here. However, the following are what I’d consider my “favorites”.

Nomad List

You could say that Nomad List is more than just an online community for digital nomads. It’s also a tool – a database of 2000+ cities from all over the world. In addition, it offers to connect users with 100,000+ digital nomads who live in these cities. Additionally, Nomad List offers a remote job board. There’s a basic, Slack-style chat room that you can openly see and sign up to. Topics are segregated by a hashtag (#) under names like “#Toronto”, “#Crypto”, “#United-States” and “#Startups” (there’s obviously FAR more than that).

To actually participate and chat, you have to create an account and login. Luckily, you also get access to their other features. This can be great for scoping out new places to live.

Global Digital Nomad Network

There are also quite a few not-so-great digital nomad communities out there… Often what makes them bad is simply the fact that there aren’t many active members. That’s what’s great about the Global Digital Nomad Network (from WebWorkTravel). What’s more, they’re on Facebook. Yes, Facebook is still relevant in a lot of cases!

Flylancer

The focus with Flylancer is on meeting people “offline”. So of course, you can create an account, login and chat to people. Not everyone on Flylancer is a digital nomad: but many of them are freelancers and remote workers. What does this mean for globetrotters? It’s means that there are some excellent options when it comes to networking.

Meetup.com

Meetup.com has been going for quite a while. Unlike other communities on this short list, it’s not specifically geared towards digital nomads. However, you’ll find interest groups of almost every type here. Looking for friends? See if there are any social activities happening in the city you’re currently living in.

And… if there’s a demand for something, you can create your own group as well!

Conclusion

If you just want to meet new people, its important to pull out all the stops. Networking and gathering new contacts for job and business opportunities may require you to join a different type of community whereas expat groups may be good for just meeting friends. Whatever the case may be, you need to understand your own needs before choosing a community.