“It’s like a prison,” he explained. “I mean, it’s only for a couple months, but I don’t know if I am well-suited for teleworking. I need to be around people.”
With an office renovation forcing him from the office, a colleague recently shared these initial impressions of his teleworking experience.
I’ve been a remote employee for the past 3 years. There have been weeks where I woke up and realized that I had not ventured beyond a half mile from my home for more than 72 hours!
Have I experienced periods of isolation? You bet. I am an “E” on the Myers Briggs personality profile, so I get energy from being around others. Some days feel like walking through the desert with water being nothing more than a mirage. Are those people in the cul de sac?
So how have I overcome the isolation that can accompany teleworking?
I first heard about Twitter through a widely publicized story of an American student who used it to break out of an Egyptian jail. In 140 characters or less, he communicated with followers regarding his arrest and imprisonment…and eventual release.
If you don’t already know, Twitter is a social networking site that allows users to send status updates, or "tweets," from a variety of mobile, web-based in less than 140 characters. It’s like texting back and forth with everyone in your cell phone or instant messaging with hundreds of people at once.
My favorite way to use Twitter on a laptop is through Twhirl, a social software desktop client, based on the Adobe AIR platform.
Like email alerts that ping us through audio or visual cues, Twhirl allows you and me to participate in the ongoing conversation happening on Twitter - on our own terms. It’s just like being in the office. You know the scenario: A group of folks around the corner from your cube gather at the proverbial water cooler, chatting about the election or the game last weekend. You overhear the banter and decide to launch your volley: “Ignore the national polls. You’ve got to pay attention to the state by state contests.”
“Whatever, dude. It's closer than you think."
But Twitter via Twhirl is even BETTER than being in the office. What if that same group asks you a question, but you’re under a tight deadline? It would seem rude to ignore them, right? And it’s awkward to tell your colleagues that you’d like to blow them off right now because work is more important.
Not so with Twitter. People reply or direct message me, but if I’m busy, I get back to them when I have finished my tasks. PLUS, if I want to drive home my point about the election, I send them a quick link that illustrates my perspective…versus sending them an email later in the day, if I remember.
Moreover, you know those folks who come to your cube and talk incessantly, like it’s 4:00 p.m. on Friday…but it’s 10 a.m. on Tuesday? With Twitter’s truncation to 140 characters, people are forced to be concise. In the words of Ronald McDonald: “I’m lovin’ it!”
So where does this put my colleague who is home alone with nowhere to go?
Step 1: Sign up for Twitter.
Step 2: Download Twhirl.
Let it run in the background while you work. When you feel the need for human interaction, send out a message or respond to someone’s tweet. Share the latest article you read or your favorite RSS feed. Join the conversation for as long or as little as you like.
Soon you’ll start feeling a sense of community right there at your table or your TV tray. You’ll start talking to people about @ariherzog, @cheeky_geeky, or @digitalsista (or maybe even @timoreilly or @guykawasaki!) like they’re your cousins or old classmates.
Yes, you might even start scheduling appointments with people you tweet or exchanging ideas that lead to new business or better insights for your project.
So here’s a shout out to all my Tweeps: Thank you for helping me through another day at the otherwise lonely home office - you break the bonds of boredom and build a community beyond cubes!
By the way, follow me. I'm @krazykriz!