If you’re working remotely and living in a home overflowing with people 24/7, you may find yourself thinking creatively about how you can find a corner away from the distractions. On the other hand, if your life is a little too quiet right now or you’re just looking for new social outlets, there are ways you can integrate social interaction into your workdays—and still get stuff done.
As a time management coach, here is what I recommend you do and don’t do to structure social interactions into your workdays.
Regardless of what you tell yourself, you’re not that productive when a third of yourself is trying to eat, another third is trying to read, and another third is trying to type without getting crumbs all over your keyboard.
Instead of eating at your computer, take a real lunch break. If you’re working from home, that could include eating with your family, your housemates, or a colleague—virtually. If you’re in the office, you can connect with coworkers face-to-face over food. Maybe you can’t take a real lunch break every day—but stopping your workflow while you eat even a few days a week can increase your sense of connection and camaraderie.
Consider doing the same with coffee breaks. When you’re in the office, moments of connection over an espresso run or the coffee pot are easy. But if you’re working from home, try sipping your joe with your family or neighbor.
Dial up a connection
Another way to integrate social time into your workdays is to call someone when you’re in transition. For example, if you’re taking a walk as a break in the afternoon, call a friend while you’re out. If you need to drive to the store, catch up with a coworker on the way.
And if you take breaks to run to the grocery store or take a pet for a walk, make it a social break too by reaching out to someone instead of scrolling on your phone and only adding to your screen time.
Make time for chats
I don’t recommend that my clients make instant messaging a continual part of your work day. Constant IM is a recipe for inefficiency. But if you have certain times of day where your energy might be low and you’re doing work that doesn’t require large amounts of focus, that could be a time when you’re available for more social connections through your IM tools. If a chat comes up, you can engage in it. Or you can even use it as an incentive to be productive. A method I use for myself is once I get a small task done, then I can reply to that unread chat.
This little bit of back-and-forth can be a nice boost if you’re feeling disconnected. Just avoid this method if you do need to focus in on a project for an extended period of time. Intermittent chats in those circumstances are a large waste of time because they break your focus and make the work take a lot longer.
Avoid social media
In your quest to integrate socialization into your workdays, try to avoid social media. Although you would think that it helps you to feel connected, the opposite is typically true. In fact, it can lead to more feelings of isolation. And given its addictive quality, it can put a major damper on your productivity.
If you’re longing for connection, seek out the real thing through in-person meetings, calls, or at least interactive chats, instead of putting time into social media that gives you the promise of connection but not the fulfillment of it.
As humans, we’re programmed to find a sense of belonging and connection. By integrating in some social interaction into the structure of your workday, you can keep yourself mentally and emotionally healthy as you get things done.