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Across the globe, more people than ever are working from home. And, while there are obvious benefits, nobody wants to admit that working from a home office isn’t as glamorous as people still tend to make it sound.
At some point in the past, nearly everyone fantasized (at least once) about how, if only they could work from home, they could live in their pajamas and hit the snooze button two or three more times than they typically do on Monday through Friday. Now, nearly a third of the US workforce has gotten a taste of what it’s actually like.
To be fair, professionals working at home have confessed to attending zoom meetings in sweatpants and a suit jacket. They are open about their work-life balance struggles. And, they’ve admitted to fighting loneliness and isolation. On the surface, it seems like we’re being vulnerable with one another.
Yes, we want to show our humility. In many ways, we’ve truly come together in these crazy times. But, if we’re being honest with others and ourselves, let’s acknowledge the fact that working from home leaves a gaping hole in the way we work.
“What hole is that?” you might ask. The latest studies (and anecdotal evidence) point to the fact that working from home is cost-efficient and that remote staff are notably more productive when given the freedom to perform their duties outside the confinement of a traditional office. These points are indeed valid.
Furthermore, introverts are particularly inclined to say that a work from home experience has been wonderful. Unlike the majority of the workforce, these self-energizing powerhouses seem to thrive without the chatter of coworkers buzzing throughout their path on a typical work day. But, when they work alone, they still feel left out at least sometimes.
No matter what personality type you have, when you work from home, you miss out on a key element of professional success: a strong professional network. In a traditional office, you have face-to-face time with coworkers and higher-ups any time you want. You have consistent brainstorming partners and people to guide you on the next step of your career journey.
For entrepreneurs and startup founders, networks are especially important. When you have the ability to work with a team, you supercharge your company’s ability to grow. In a home office, any way you look at it, you are at a disadvantage.
The truth that nobody wants to admit about working from home is that we don’t have it all together. If we want to truly thrive like our social media profiles and our free eBooks portray, we need each other.
Professionals need a strong network to find new jobs, get promotions, boost their skillsets, and stay on top of industry trends. Entrepreneurs need to meet the right clients, partners, mentors, employees, and investors. Relationships provide the resources you need to foster development at every rung of the career ladder.
Looking forward, here’s the challenge: If anything about the way we work will change, performing duties outside of a traditional office is likely to become more common. So, what’s the solution?
Beyond the typical LinkedIn and Zoom advice, here are three tips to boost your network while you maintain the freedom that you get when you work from home (or from anywhere in the world, for that matter).
Let’s start with some old school advice, here. Dedicate some time each week to pick up the phone and make a call. Depending on where you live, you may not be able to invite someone out for dinner or a drink at the moment, but you can always make a phone call. Your only intention here should be to make a connection.
Who you should call depends on you. Call someone you love speaking to or someone who typically gives you great advice. Reach out to a role model, mentor, or someone who is doing great in their professional life. Or, just dial someone you wish you could be closer to.
Pro tip: Keep a spreadsheet or CRM database of the connections you have, where they work, their contact information, and personal info like their kids’ names or special occasions like anniversaries. And, if you’re up for a challenge, try to network with 30 people in 30 days.
We can all think of someone who has helped us at some point in the past. That person deserves to be acknowledged. And, even a small gift with a handwritten note can go a long way.
If you don’t know someone well, it’s harder to decide what to send them. But, with social media, it’s easy to customize. You can peek in at Twitter or LinkedIn profiles and find out what people like. For someone more private, you might have their name engraved on a tool that’s relevant to their occupation.
A digital gift might be best for someone who lives overseas or already has everything. Ultimately, the sky is the limit here. If you think outside the box and win at this one, you won’t soon be forgotten.
Note that it’s easy to miss the mark here if you’ve never sent a professional gift. So, get up to speed on the pros and cons. And, never give a gift as a form of bribery.
When you’re paying attention, you’ll notice opportunities when others in your network could use each other. And, it only takes a few minutes to do some quick vetting and send an email.
For example, you’re probably part of several professional groups on social media. You might see that someone you would like to be closer with is looking for help. While you may not have the exact skillset they need, there’s a chance someone in one of your groups does. Take a moment to gather contact info and make an intro.
As a bonus, people who are introduced by mutual connections tend to build stronger connections than those who meet on job boards or by other more obligatory means. If you do this right, you can set the stage for success for all parties.
Working from home has measurable benefits, but it has at least one fundamental drawback. When you isolate at work, you pass by opportunities that you would otherwise gain in a face-to-face setting. To remedy the problem, you can use the three tips above to expand your network and engage people, even from afar.
At Workbox, we provide a coworking opportunity where professionals truly thrive. In addition to flexible office space, we offer in-person and online business acceleration services and networking events for all members. Learn more about our offer.