By 2020, over 40% of the world’s workforce is expected to be freelance, an independent contractor or a solopreneur. But independence brings its own challenges, and, often, flexible working can mean fewer interactions with the clients, colleagues and friends that we take for granted in day-to-day office life.
For many of us working from home – and with family members travelling the world – Skype is a positive way of staying connected, sharing news, showing the pet dog’s antics, and creating international business links. It’s certainly made the world feel a smaller space. For me it has helped me feel more connected with my grandson and daughter who live nearly 300 miles away. One of our AP clients works away from home Monday to Friday and uses Skype to read bedtime stories to his children.
In a recent, AI training programme, we talked about some issues of working from home – for example, within a dispersed regional team, after having worked in a more traditional office environment. People missed the social interaction of conversations and ideas – there was, on occasion, a sense of loss and loneliness. Two positive strategies emerged from the conversation to combat these wellbeing issues.
The Skype coffee break
This involves arranging regular coffee break times to talk work, and have the normal social interactions that take place in a team work place. It’s an opportunity to share what you’ve done at the weekend, family news, or the latest film you’ve seen.
The virtual reality office environment
For colleagues who miss working in an office or team setting, this is created by connecting via Skype, and leaving it on for an agreed time. Not for a coffee break – although this could take place during the shared time – but to simulate the sense of being in a shared office environment. You just need to remember that you’ve left Skype on, but it soon becomes something you get used to!
Using both these approaches, participants noticed they felt less lonely, more connected and productive, and enjoyed some fun together. But I’m unsure whether the Skype creators had this approach in mind when developing the software!
Make arrangements with a work partner or a person you collaborate with and agree a weekly Skype coffee break at a mutually agreed time. After a number of weeks, reflect on these two questions:
Q1 What have you enjoyed and valued about this time together?
Q2 What have you noticed and learnt from the experience and how has it affected your wellbeing?
If you enjoy your Skype interactions, you can always think about organising a group Skype once a month, and see what happens.
If you get the time difference right you can have international coffee breaks.