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I've started working remotely for a company a few timezones away. I'm not the most social person to begin with, but now that I can't even say "hi" in the hall,

How can I help remind people I exist?

(The office has 20-30 people in it, but I'm currently working with a small team of 3-4.)

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What has your company put in place as far as office communications go (e.g. is there an active company mailing list, discussion board, chat room, etc), and are you the only remote worker? –  jcmeloni Feb 12 '13 at 2:45
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This is currently not a constructive question as per the FAQ - what is the specific problem you are facing? An automatic email every 3 seconds would definitely remind people you exist but I don't think this would really help you. –  enderland Feb 12 '13 at 3:21
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@enderland Disagree - I think this question is both purposeful and succinct. It's furthermore a common issue in distributed organizations. –  pap Feb 12 '13 at 10:16
    
@pap there is a reason why "give me a list" types of "questions" are normally specifically disallowed in FAQs on Stack Exchange. –  enderland Feb 12 '13 at 13:08

4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

No need for overly creative solutions to this. My entire team (around 12) except 2 work remotely. You have to use the tools you have and find a way to interact on a non-work related (but obviously appropriate) manner on occasion. Here are some suggestions that work well for me and should generically speaking for remote employees

  1. When you make a call for a work related reason, start the conversation for the 1st few minutes asking whomever "How are you?", "Getting a lot of snow where you are?", "How's the family doing?", "Hey Happy Friday, any plans this weekend?" These small starters will recreate that office 'water cooler' talk you are used to.
  2. Use business connectivity tools to chat: Microsoft Communicator, Email, Phone, Skype, etc. Leverage these for business needs or for the occasional conversation. IM a co-worker with something like "Whew, it's been a long week of work, how's it going over your way?"
  3. Use social networking if it's a routine part of your culture. For an example, Twitter is popular in the IT and software world for both business and social networking. Many stay away from Facebook for work related friends, but in some settings this is the norm and can be a great way to drop in and see "what's going on with person 'x'". I'm not advocating for these sites but rather stating in some work cultures they are used.
  4. If your remote team ever assembles (quarterly, annually, whatever) at a central office location make sure to seize this opportunity for a team activity of any type: donuts at work, dinner after work paid for by the company, outing like bowling, movie, etc. Any opportunity like this if it occurs is a great time to strengthen relationships of remote team members that do not ordinarily get to work together.

Main point is this interaction may not occur on its own; you may have to initiate it yourself! Good Luck!

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In addition to atconway's good suggestions one of the best things I've found over the last few years is to send a daily e-mail summarizing what you did today and what you're doing tomorrow (or near-term). It keeps people aware of what you're working on, what you're contributing, and reminds them that you exist and that you're accessible. –  Philippe Chaintreuil May 29 at 23:30

First adjust your hours so that you have at least some overlap with the main office's normal hours. Now you can call people and attend meetings (some agile development processes include daily meetings and most places have at least a weekly team meeting). Ask your boss to schedule things like that for the hours when you are available. Talk to people on the phone or IM daily. Remote workers who don't stay in contact are the ones that people think are slacking off.

My boss and I are in two different timezones. But we still manage to talk several times a day and IM more often than that. We have workers on some projects who live half the world away, but the hours they work and those we work are scheduled to coincide for at least an hour daily. That's when we talk to them. If you can get it set up, video calls are even better.

We usually seem to find to easier to deal with remote people who we have met, so try to get a couple of days in the main office. It will make a differnce in your relationships.

Smalltalk is a key element of building good relationships. So when you cal in for a discussion about the project, also spend 5 minutes or so asking about the other person,. Things like did you have a good weekend? Did you enjoy the game last night (if you know he or she is a sports person)? How are you kids doing? Ask about the vacation he just took. My boss and I talk about her cats and my dogs. Remember big events in people's lives. Congratulate them on marriages, birthdays, graduations etc. If you hear of someone in the office who you work with having a death in the family, send a condolence card.

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Spend some time with one of your colleagues or when you’re having difficulties at work or some questions in mind chat one of with them. Asking is a great way to build relationship especially to remote workers. If you’re a bit of shy to chat or think that you will make a mistake don’t worry you won’t see them.

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First point: Some people are cut out for working alone, with the only interaction being a few emails or phone calls. This isn't for everyone and you can't always make every situation work for every person. Its a person by person specific trait.

Second: Do you need to? Sure you could be constantly reminding people you are there but if all it is doing is eating up your time and distracting everyone else from working it is going to be frowned upon.

You will (likely) already have a hard time convincing some people that you're working and not lounging around at home, constant reminders you are there could be seen as you having nothing to do or not working hard enough.

You should be talking to people when there is something you don't know that you need to know that they do know. You should be contacting people only when you need them.

If you feel you need to justify what work you are doing then a daily / weekly report to your manager of what you have done and what you're planning to do can go a long way to reminding him that you are there and working. Perhaps talk with them to see if this is something feasible.

Another important point to note would be perhaps voicing these views to your manager will help you a lot. Your manager certainly knows your work environment much better than anyone here ever will. Perhaps tell your manager that you feel left out of the team and would like to engage with the other members more often, what does he suggest you can do?

After all, the point of the manager is to remove roadblocks for you, if you feel that the lack of acknowledgement is hindering your work then i'm sure they will be very happy to do what they can to improve your workflow.

It is a very difficult thing to do just when you're working from home, it is even harder when there are many time-zones between you (like you pointed out)

Now im not saying you should quit your job, but i am saying that working from home isnt for everyone, not everyone can pull it off, everyone is individual. Just keep that in mind.

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