Remote work is usually positioned as a benefit primarily to introverts.
If you can work deeply and autonomously on a problem for a long period of time without interruption, remote work might be right for you. But if you like a water cooler conversation? Get back to the office. Perhaps schedule a meeting or two?
Problem: I love watercooler conversations, happy hours, and whiteboard sessions. I also love remote work and it would require a handsome offer to pull me back into office work.
I’ll admit, though, when I first started working remote, I was nervous about the isolation. Now, though, I’ve got it down and love it.
In fact, there are clear benefits to working remote as an extrovert (or wherever you fall on this spectrum that has been mistakenly viewed as a binary). There are also downsides you’ll want to mitigate (like social isolation and boredom).
Here are the things I’ve learned about working from home if you’re an extrovert.
1. Get a coworking space
Coworking spaces are normally pretty cheap and give you an opportunity to network with others in similar situations. Also, they get you out of your pajamas. The rise of remote work has also given rise to an abundance of coworking spaces (and plenty of people using them). Here’s some data from recent years:
I live in Austin, and I swear half of my friends in tech work from coworking spaces now. WeWork is a popular one, but there are many other options. You shouldn’t have trouble finding a good coworking space in a major city. However, as someone who travels a ton, I’m normally pleasantly surprised to find coworking spaces in smaller cities as well. For example, last month I spent two weeks in Arezzo, and there were several coworking spaces.
Generally speaking, people like coworking spaces because there are other people around them who are also working. Some enjoy that you can talk to others, bounce ideas around, discuss work, etc. Basically, you can mimic the “water cooler” conversations you have at the office.
I like that aspect, though I think I like coworking spaces simply because of the presence of other people. Even without conversation, I get some energetic benefit from being near other people.
In any case, going to a coworking space every once in a while is a good way to ward off feelings of loneliness and alienation. It makes you realize there are other people who also work as you do.
For what it’s worth, I use Regus and I love it. It’s great for travelers because they have thousands of locations worldwide.
2. Do weekly lunches with people from other companies in your industry
Weekly lunches are self-explanatory: organize a lunch get-together with others in your role (or not – get lunch with whomever you please) on a weekly basis. And, honestly, you can approach these a few different ways – going out for lunch, holding it in a coworking space, virtually, etc.
Plan out specific days and times to just meet up with people and talk over food. Taking time to make plans can make a world of difference – when life gets busy, it’s hard to just call somebody up and go, especially when working on your own time.
I think I’m unorganized compared to others. You could probably use a free CRM (even tying it into a meeting scheduling app) to track your relationships and set reminders for lunch every few months. I basically fly by the seat of my pants and get lunch with people whenever I remember that they too live in Austin. It works for me, but like I said, I’m sure there’s a better system for this.
Benefits of lunches are obvious in my mind:
- Good conversation (meeting with old connections)
- Build your network (meeting with new connections)
- Good food (you gotta eat anyway, right?)
This is where I see remote work as underrated. You don’t have the crutch of your workplace friends as your network, which means you have a forcing function that allows you to get out of your company bubble and meet other people doing cool stuff. I take advantage of this to the full extent and have built up a pretty good network of marketers, founders, etc.
Side note: don’t be ashamed to schedule time to just catch up with coworkers over Zoom or Skype. It’s like a water cooler conversation, but virtual. These may feel “unproductive” but they’ll make you happier.
3. Work from coffee shops
I’m writing this from a coffee shop in London right now.
Actually, I prefer coffee shops to anywhere else when it comes to getting shit done. There’s some weird alchemy going on that makes me more productive, probably the combination of readily available caffeine, the hum of the background noise, good WiFi, and the implicit social pressure to appear as if you were doing important things (what are you going to do, spend 2 hours scrolling through Reddit in a coffee shop like a psychopath?)
Sidenote, even if you hate Starbucks coffee, you have to admit that place is a straight up haven for traveling workers. Good WiFi, lots of space, plenty of outlets…I digress.
Coffee shops give me the same benefit that coworking spaces do: they put me in the vicinity of other people.
However, I like the temporary nature of coffee shops. I think there’s a forcing function at play, where you realize you shouldn’t spend all day in a coffee shop. At least for me, this pushes me to get my work done much faster than normal. Even better, you can leave your charger at home to really put the fire under you.
I also love visiting new coffee shops in new cities, so this is another one of those “feed two birds with one scone” hacks.
One caveat with coffee shops though: taking calls from coffee shops absolutely sucks. This is where coworking spaces clearly triumph.
4. Build a robust network of friends and a good social life
If you don’t have a good social network, you’re probably not going to enjoy working remote, at least over the long run.
I enjoy a week here and there, usually when traveling, where I have little contact with friends – but that’s it. Anything more than that, and I start to crave social contact.
Especially if you’re extroverted, you’re going to need a healthy network of friends for your health.
In-office work typically places you in one room of a building, constantly surrounded by the same coworkers. This type of daily social interaction is awesome, particularly if you have a great company culture and you can build some real friendships. Even if you do work in a large company with a culture like this, in my opinion, it’s still nice to have some friends outside of the office.
In fact, remote work is a beautiful thing because it removes the illusion of your office being all you need as a social network. Just because you see someone every day doesn’t make them a friend. With remote work, you’re forced to deal with that and make some damn friends.
How do you do that? Not sure. Depends on the person. I like to take group classes of things I’m interested in like Spanish + German classes, Krav Maga, and salsa dancing.
I also like to do pub crawls and have a good alumni network in Austin, so that probably helps, too.
There’s been a lot written on the topic of building a social network and making friends as an adult, particularly if you’ve moved to a new city. I don’t want to rehash any of that here.
If that’s a pain point for you (as it is for many), a good resource is Jordan Harbinger’s podcast (they constantly cover questions like this on their Feedback Friday episodes).
As a proxy, you can also join Slack groups and stay active on Twitter. I think this is actually super valuable (for many reasons, including career and personal brand), but if you’re like me, you’ll still find you want some real-life friends, too.
5. Build some sort of routine so you can maximize attendance of social events
If you work super weird hours, it’ll be hard to meet up with your friends. Carve out time during lunch, dinner, happy hour, etc. to meet up and interact with humans.
Although when I travel, things get a little chaotic, when I’m back home, my routine is rigid – honestly, it’s more rigid now that I work remote than it was when I worked in an office.
I wake up and follow the same morning routine: shower, coffee (via the Aeropress), 3 Duolingo sessions, Spanish (or German) lesson via Skype, meditate for ten minutes, then I’m off to work.
I normally break for lunch at the same time and have the same rigid (and quite a rigorous workout) schedule. Each evening, depending on the day, I either do yoga at Black Swan, krav maga at my local gym or lift weights. But I know which one it is by the day, and it’s entirely predictable. I wrote a whole post about how that routine affects my productivity, though the bonus more relevant to this post is that it opens me up for more social time and fun.
Of course, the caveat here is that to maintain some sense of sanity, you should be a bit flexible. For example, if Theo Von is coming through town on a Wednesday and a bunch of friends want to go see if, but normally that’s my yoga night, I’m probably going to go see the comedy show.
In general, just build a routine that allows you to feel grounded and comfortable with a semi-predictable schedule. Otherwise, you’ll slip into odd-hours and remote work becomes a mental chore.
6. Go to more conferences and meetups
There’s a lot of negativity towards conferences in the startup space, mostly centered on the fact that they’re a waste of time.
If you’re using purely utilitarian calculus, at least over the short term, this is probably true. Your dollar per hour value is probably better if you just get more work done.
However, if you’re an employee, and especially if you’re remote, I’ve found that conference compound non-linearly in value over time. This is mostly due to serendipity and the irreplaceable value of meeting someone face to face (preferably over drinks).
Yes, I know blog posts reach a bigger scale in terms of audience. But the people I’ve met at conferences are, by and large, unforgettable. I can’t tell you the author of the last blog post I read.
The best strategy is probably a combination: grow your blog, but also make sure to show up in person from time to time.
And in terms of conferences, you’re going to get a massively higher return on investment if you’re speaking at the event. But even if you’re just attending, it’s a damn good excuse to get out of your cave-like home office and talk to some other people in your industry.
I find even one or two per year are refreshing, energizing, and inspiring. Plus you get to meet your heroes sometimes:
When you choose a conference, particularly if your company only allows one or if you have to fund it yourself, optimize for the social value and networking. A conference like CXL Live, Elite Camp, or Conversion Hotel is going to be much more fun (while still being crazy high quality in terms of content) than a generic one-day conference-center event with a few big name speakers.
Also, meetup.com is great. Just look for cool stuff going on in your city. I’m sure there’s lots of it. If not (or even if there is), host your own. We host a monthly CRO meetup in Austin. I also regularly host informal content meetups, and once or twice a year, I even host a mastermind week for remote people.
Traveling gets you out of your shell and you can apply all the same lessons from different cities and states (as long as your company is cool with it).
I find it’s simply a good way to break up the routine, and if you’re traveling in a popular place with other digital nomads and remote workers, you can meet a ton of cool people in the same boat as you.
Plug: Outsite is a coworking/coliving space where it’s super easy to meet like minded people like this when you’re traveling. They’re in a ton of cool locations. I’ve stayed at Outsite locations and always love it.
One tough thing with travel is that it tends to contradict with routine. However, if you travel long term, you can usually establish some sort of habitual schedule. Even if not, it’s not the end of the world if you have to break your routine for a week.
I say, if you’re going to work remote, you might as well travel a bit. That’s a benefit of the whole ordeal in my opinion. Oddly, I’m also usually more productive when traveling (still not sure why).
8. When all else fails, get a dog.
Dogs are awesome, and it’s totally normal to talk to your pets (especially if you’re an extrovert).
Can they understand everything you’re saying? No, but the average dog knows around 165 words (in other words, they know how to respond to certain sounds), which is enough to have a simple conversation (or rather enough to have a little fun and bond with your pet). Can they talk back? No, but they can cuddle, jump, bite, play, and sense when you need company.
While you should still make some friends and probably work from a coworking space or coffee shop every now and again, a dog is a good way to bring a little more energy to your home office.
Working from home doesn’t have to be lonely. It can be productive and awesome and, if you follow the tips on this list, fully socially fulfilling for an extrovert.