Connecting In A "Remote" World

Oct. 2, 2020

I’ve worked remotely since 2009 and I got interested in understanding connection because I wanted to be able to connect well with others regardless of where I was. Nothing beats being in person, but I’ve always been determined to overcome the struggles of connecting remotely.

Struggles are popping up in all varieties and level of difficulty and working remotely has become a part of our world, so here are some thoughts about connection in the remote working world we are in, whether it’s for work or pleasure.

Part of why working remotely isn’t easy is because it just doesn’t feel like a working environment, and that’s largely in part to the way we connect with others. In an office, or school if you’re a teacher, or anything in person, being present allows you to give attention to what or who is needed at that time.

For example; In a classroom, a teacher can easily address a students needs/questions because the teacher is consistently checking to make sure things are going smoothly.

This “required presence” allows you to be less distracted, including by whatever is on your phone. It allows you to ask others necessary questions, and listen well to others. And as I figured out early on, asking and listening are keys to connecting well with others.

Working remotely can be beneficial because now you can prepare for just about anything or anyone. It also allows you to communicate as you wish, when you wish, and with the best possible responses. You can even find a best time for a phone call allowing you to prepare for the conversation. And yes, of course, you can still ask great questions, and take in well what you hear, read, or watch.

However, that’s also the problem because preparation of any kind takes time. You’re having to sacrifice time from one thing so you can spend the time needed for another. Even the seconds or minutes it takes to think about and respond to a text means seconds lost somewhere else, and it adds up. Even a phone call can be prepared for because you can schedule it for when it's best.

Another big part of human connecting is exchanging energy, and that’s not easily done remotely. No matter how many exclamations we text to share excitement, it’s never the same as feeding off the other person’s energy when together. It's easier over the phone or video chat, but it's still not the same as the feeling you get by with the person, which is a big part of exchanging energy.

Using the teaching example; now in a remote classroom, that teacher can’t feel the energy in the room, or of a student; the sense of community created in a classroom is lost to individual attention, and if multiple students have questions about an assignment the teacher has to take the time to answer.

Preparing a lesson now means you are also preparing that lesson to be presented well online and that may take extra time. Preparing or working on anything now takes extra time because you can’t just walk in to a room and say, “Here you go”, or start a conversation. That kind of interaction eleminates the bits of extra time being taken up by how we commnicate over technology.

I used teaching as an example but the struggle in connecting well remotely is the same for anyone. The struggle comes with selecting what gets our time.

I could sit on my phone and text back and forth with clients, or be on calls, but eventually work needs to get done. It's easy to love helping and being there for others, and actually I get wrapped in up whatever back and forth exists.

The way we use our time is key anyway, i'm sure everyone is aware of that, but the way using technology adds on is something we don't always consider until we try and figure out where time went. Whether it's pressing a persons name on a device to either call or send a message, or the time it takes to draft an important e-mail, time gets swallowed up by preparation.

Think about how different our world would be if the virtual “room” we put ourselves in was more like real life. Talking takes less time than typing a message and the back and forth. Of course we don’t want that, we need human interaction.

That's why so much of the struggle in being able to connect well remotely isn't actually the communication itself. Time can be a struggle we all deal with, I know I certainly wish there was more of it at times, and so you just have to pay attention to what’s most needed at the current time. But that's not so easy with how many different things are grabbing at our attention in today’s "remote" world.

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