Teaching Wellness at Workbar

The following is a guest post by Dillan DiGiovanni, a Lunch & Learn instructor at Workbar.

11 strangers walk into a room from right off the street and leave ready to change their lives.

Sounds like the setup for a joke, but it isn’t. It actually happened last week during my Lunch & Learn for Winter Wellness at Workbar Boston.

Abby Taylor, Digital Media and Events Manager at Workbar, invited me to bring my integrative health coaching expertise to the current members of the space as well as employees from local businesses and companies, or self-employed entrepreneurs.

As a former classroom teacher, I really love giving in-person talks and workshops–and when the group that gathers is open, receptive and FUN, it makes my job even better. This group, however, was one of my best to date. And I’ve done hundreds of presentations. What made it so remarkable?

The Interest

When I advertise wellness during the winter, I know I’m going to attract people who want more than the status quo in life. Most people are content to be cold and get sick and complain about it–but people who want wellness during the winter in New England? That’s not your everyday person. Sure enough, the group in attendance was an array of folks into fitness, health, mindfulness and transformation in some form or fashion. They were primed and ready to go.

IMG_9192

The Vibe

I like to make learning fun. We all want to grow and if we can laugh while we are doing it, I think it helps. From the very start, the group was open and receptive. They were very attentive and seemed really happy to be in the room. They made jokes and asked great questions. It was just fun.

The Content

I’ll be honest, advice for wellness in the winter is the same for wellness year-round. Sleep plenty, stress less, reduce refined sugar, increase greens in your diet and consume probiotics to combat the invasion of bacteria and viruses. It’s not rocket science, really, but it’s easy to forget amidst the pace of our lives. The folks in the room were either already on-point with these tips or tremendously honest about their room for growth in any or all areas.

Here’s what we covered:

  • Stress: know what causes it in your life and reduce it as much as possible.
  • Sugar: eat more raw honey, more maple syrup (in and on everything) and less refined sugar.
  • Greens: kale is your friend with benefits. Try to get greens in 3x/day if possible.
  • Probiotics: good bacteria cancels out bad bacteria. Colonize your gut with the good guys to beat illness.
  • Sleep: the cheapest and most effective medicine for your body. Get more of it, by any means necessary.

The Authenticity

Whenever I present to a group, I never know what will happen. But I do know this: most human beings want to connect with other human beings, and many people are afraid to be open and honest with their lives. I leave it up to the group how far they want to go. I offer open-ended questions and build in talk-time and see what people do with it. This group took that and ran with it. They shared truths about their relationships, work habits, interpersonal challenges and struggles with sugar, home-cooking and caffeine. They shared the stuff of real life–and then supported each other as they spoke–and it was amazing.

As our 90 minutes passed, more people shared even more deeply and others jumped in and respectfully offered suggestions and advice to people who had mere strangers minutes earlier. It’s the experience I always hope for with every group but try not to expect. As we started setting goals on worksheets I brought (because who doesn’t like a good worksheet?!) people were fired up to write concrete steps to make the changes they wanted to see. They went far beyond winter wellness and were thinking way bigger–into their work/life balance, how to improve their relationships and what brave steps were necessary to finance a dream startup.

This was truly one of the best experiences I’ve had in my coaching career and Abby said to the group that it was one of the best Lunch & Learns she has hosted. That meant a lot to me because more than delivering good content, I felt good to have delivered a rare and invaluable experience that people would remember for a while.

Now, can you say the same for your lunch hour last Friday?

10708738_4725884720632_7437145353270724739_o

Dillan DiGiovanni is a certified integrated nutritional health coach and certified teacher. He creates innovative programs for healthier people and workplaces. Dillan lives and works in Union Square in Somerville, MA and enjoys coffee, jelly beans and movies–in that order.

Want to learn more about the Lunch & Learn program at Workbar? Email abby@workbar.com.

 

Escape the Blizzard Blues at 4 Boston Bars with Fireplaces

The recent avalanche of snow continues to take its toll on Boston residents. Are we at 7 feet of accumulation yet? Will our still-buried cars make it out alive, or will they fossilize before being unearthed millions of years from now? Will we ever be able to get to work on time (or at all?) Fine, blizzard blues. You win. We’ll reconvene our regular lives once Spring comes. In the meantime if you need us, we’ll be in one of the cozy bars listed below, warming ourselves in front of the fireplace with a glass of Scotch.

Fireplace
James’s Gate, Jamaica Plain- The Gate is a JP staple. This warm, woody establishment features a restaurant side, but we prefer the bar side. It has a cozy vibe, is generally filled with locals, and in addition to the fireplace, it also has board games. Make a day of it!

The Red House, Harvard Square- You may have dined at the oh-so-cute Red House before, but now it’s time to repurpose your visit! Curl up in front of the fireplace in their intimate bar area to blow off some of the steam you worked up digging out your car/house/walkway/driveway.

Squealing Pig, Mission Hill- While this bar is generally lumped in with other Brigham Circle bars as a hot spot for Northeastern students, Squealing Pig has plenty of redeeming qualities. One, of course, is their fireplace, but they also have yummy bar food, a great beer selection, and Wednesday night trivia.

Christopher’s, Porter Square- Christopher’s is a charming place with exposed brick, an inviting shopfront, great service, and a respectable selection of nachos and burgers. Oh yeah, and they have that fireplace you’ve been looking for.

Remember, the storms have hit Boston’s hourly and tip wage earners the hardest. Be sure to go out to your local establishments and tip your servers generously!

 

About the Author: Ann Holland is a Space & Community Manager at Workbar. You may also address her as Potroast. Contact her on Twitter @SamuelEnderby and on Instagram at @SamuelEnderby

Subscribe to the Workbar blog for original content on entrepreneurship, the mobile work style and business topics such as management, productivity and team building.  Our goal is to encourage and educate you on how to be a better worker!  Follow Workbar on Twitter and check out our Facebook page.

How to Work from Home in a Snowpocalypse

Coworking is on the rise, and it’s not too hard to figure out why. With a shifting job market, less conventional hours, and a workforce adjusting to what these changes mean, a home away from your home office just makes good sense. We all know the challenges of working from home: isolation, distraction, the dazed feeling of not leaving your house for an entire day, the temptation to do laundry and run errands instead of getting down to business. But some days working from home is unavoidable, as the historic blizzard Juno that hit the East Coast last week proved.

Of course, one of the best things about belonging to a coworking space is the opportunity to get involved with the community. At Workbar, we’re lucky to have an engaged and thriving community with the drive to keep working and stay connected despite gale force winds and a steady stream of snow. So when our co-founder and CEO sent out a Juno greeting to the community at large requesting photos of everyone’s makeshift home workspace, our members responded in droves.

For some of our members and staff, building a couch nest to ward off the cold was the best response to the forbidding weather. Others reveled in the extra day at home and decided to frolic in the powdery-fresh glitter of two feet of new snow.

cozyVSsnowy

Even working from home, members maintained the spirit of coworking by spending some quality work time with their furry friends, roommates, and family members. We especially loved the photos of frisky dogs and fluffy cats curling up next to their owners and romping in the snow.

petcollage

And of course, we had folks just plain trying to make it work amongst babies, battlestations, and makeshift standing desks (without the Workbar views). One clever member reminded us of the cozier possibilities that technology offers, and laughed in the faces of our tiny screens.

differentspaces

We even caught a glimpse of our more elusive members traveling in warmer climates, and their much more idyllic workspaces. When stacked up side by side, the comparison was sobering to say the least. While we were a little jealous to see the sandy beaches, visible sunlight and waving palm trees, we were even more pleased to know that they were safe and avoiding the headache of winter-weather traveling.

snowVSTropical

Finally, we’d like to give our audience what they’ve been asking for: an exclusive look inside the homes of our Workbar staff. Needless to say, we have the most glamorous home workspaces of all.

workbarteam

Happy shoveling all, and don’t forget to make time for sledding, skiing, and snow-angeling while you still can!

About the Author: Ann Holland is a Space & Community Manager at Workbar. You may also address her as Potroast. Contact her on Twitter @SamuelEnderby and on Instagram at @SamuelEnderby

Subscribe to the Workbar blog for original content on entrepreneurship, the mobile work style and business topics such as management, productivity and team building.  Our goal is to encourage and educate you on how to be a better worker!  Follow Workbar on Twitter and check out our Facebook page.

10 Office-Friendly Exercises for the Everyday Desk Jockey

The following is a guest post by Amanda Greening – a member of Workbar since September, 2014.

The Bad and the Ugly

Science tells us regular, sustained sitting compromises the human body in myriad, potentially dangerous and likely uncomfortable ways. In a nutshell, your body forgets it’s capable of movement; muscles forget how to lengthen and shorten, heart and lungs forget how to pump blood and oxygen, organs go haywire, bones lose density, metabolism slows to a crawl, even brain function grows sluggish.

If you have a desk job, you’ve probably experienced: all-over stiffness, sore back (or hips, knees, shoulders, or neck), shortness of breath, lack of energy, extra pounds creeping on, disturbing blood work, and the general feeling that moving is much harder than staying still. Your body has accepted its new position in life.

The SAID Principle

Why is sitting so lousy for your body? Humans are incredibly efficient adaptation machines -adapting exactly to the stimuli you’re exposed to, but no further. This is called the SAID Principle: Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. If you run, jump, bend, push, pull, reach and twist, SAID dictates your body will rise to the challenge – given time and progressive overload. If you sit all day, your body adapts no further, and throws on the brakes when you try to be more than furniture.

Here is a classic scenario: Desk jockey goes for a run after a day chained to her chair. Seems benign enough to get some movement and fresh air. But, sitting for the previous 8 hours has not prepared her body for a thousand single leg hops; repetitive torso rotation; flexion and extension at her hips, ankles, and knees with every step, or sustained heart rate elevation. Pain and injury ensue and her body gets weaker instead of stronger.
The exercise modality usually gets the blame, but  it’s the sitting that caused the injury – the exercise is only the canary in the coal mine.

Reversing the Curse

Now that we’re clear on the cause and effect relationship between sedentary lifestyle and loss of physical function, let’s talk rehab. Remember the SAID Principle – if you want your body to adapt for movement, you need to teach it, throughout the day, how to move. To this end, I’ve designed a workout of 10 targeted exercises, to be done at or near your workspace, that will get you fixed up faster than you can say “back spasms.”

In creating this workout, my focus was on reversing the specific, negative, muscular adaptations associated with sitting. When done regularly, these exercises will elevate your heart rate, increase hamstring flexibility and shoulder and hip mobility, incorporate rotation and lateral movement, and – perhaps most importantly – activate your glutes throughout. These aren’t the most aggressive movements on the block, because:

1) I want them to be safe for even the least mobile among us,
2) No one wants to break a serious sweat in their work clothes, and
3) I don’t believe you’ll really do them at work unless they’re low-profile.

That said, if you zero in on form and focus on engaging the right muscles, you will absolutely feel the burn and the benefit. Support this work by walking more, taking the stairs, and intermittently standing to work.

So, take off your heels, adjust your clothing if you need to, warn your cubicle neighbors, and get moving!

10 Anti-Sitting Exercises

(Perform in order. Repeat entire sequence twice in the morning and afternoon.)

Exercise #1 – Calf Stretch

Feet square to front. Keep back absolutely flat throughout, legs straight. Lean forward from hip, with flat back, to produce tension. Stop before pain. Hold for 30 seconds.

Feet square to front. Keep back absolutely flat throughout, legs straight. Lean forward from hip, with flat back, to produce tension. Stop before pain. Hold for 30 seconds.

Exercise #2 – Hamstring Stretch

desk exercises - 02

Feet square to front. Start with a low surface, elevate surface when proper form can be maintained. Keep back absolutely flat throughout, legs straight, butt out. Lean forward from hips, with flat back, to produce tension. Stop before pain. NOTE: If your back rounds or your pelvis tucks under, you are NOT doing this stretch correctly. Lower your leg until you can maintain form. Hold for 30 seconds on each side.

Exercise #3 – Squat to Chair

Part 1: Keep back absolutely flat, heart high, chest wide. Feet can turn out slightly, press knees out so they are as wide as feet throughout.

3.1: Keep back absolutely flat, heart high, chest wide. Feet can turn out slightly, press knees out so they are as wide as feet throughout.

To initiate, stretch butt back, all weight in heels. Arms can move in front to counterbalance, but do not drop chest. Tap chair slightly with butt, don’t rest or rock at bottom. Check to make sure knees are as wide as feet, press knees out if necessary.

3.2: To initiate, stretch butt back, all weight in heels. Arms can move in front to counterbalance, but do not drop chest. Tap chair slightly with butt, don’t rest or rock at bottom. Check to make sure knees are as wide as feet, press knees out if necessary.

Immediately press knees out and squeeze glutes to stand, with heart high. Hold glute contraction for a second at top, with pelvis tucked under gently, before descending again. Lower squat surface as form can be maintained. Work up to 20 reps.they are as wide as feet throughout.

3.3: Immediately press knees out and squeeze glutes to stand, with heart high. Hold glute contraction for a second at top, with pelvis tucked under gently, before descending again. Lower squat surface as form can be maintained. Work up to 20 reps.

Exercise #4 – Stationary Lunge/Hip Stretch

4.1: Take long, split stance. Back heel stays up throughout. Use wall or desk for balance support if necessary. Feet, knees, and hips must stay square to front throughout. Keep heart high and chest wide.

4.1: Take long, split stance. Back heel stays up throughout. Use wall or desk for balance support if necessary. Feet, knees, and hips must stay square to front throughout. Keep heart high and chest wide.

4.2: Initiate by dropping back knee to tap the floor. Front knee cannot move past front ankle, keep weight balanced between feet. Legs should make right angles at bottom.

4.2: Initiate by dropping back knee to tap the floor. Front knee cannot move past front ankle, keep weight balanced between feet. Legs should make right angles at bottom.

4.3: Gently tap back knee, then rise up in split stance, keeping back heel off the floor. Complete all reps on one side before switching. Work up to 15 reps on each leg. NOTE: With front knee discomfort, take extra care to not let front knee travel forward of front ankle. With back knee discomfort, let back knee rest on floor for a few seconds with each rep.

4.3: Gently tap back knee, then rise up in split stance, keeping back heel off the floor. Complete all reps on one side before switching. Work up to 15 reps on each leg. NOTE: With front knee discomfort, take extra care to not let front knee travel forward of front ankle. With back knee discomfort, let back knee rest on floor for a few seconds with each rep.

Exercise #5 – Hip Hinge to Posterior Tap

Keep Back absolutely flat throughout, chest wide, feet flat. Assume wide stance with feet slightly turned out. Stand near wall to start.

5.1: Keep Back absolutely flat throughout, chest wide, feet flat. Assume wide stance with feet slightly turned out. Stand near wall to start.

5.2: Initiate by stretching hamstrings, reaching butt back to gently tap wall. Weight stays in flat feet, don’t rest weight against wall. After a few test reps, find distance from wall that makes tapping the wall with flat feet challenging but do-able. You can increase this distance as form can be maintained, without lifting up toes or letting weight transfer from feet to wall during the tap.

5.2: Initiate by stretching hamstrings, reaching butt back to gently tap wall. Weight stays in flat feet, don’t rest weight against wall. After a few test reps, find distance from wall that makes tapping the wall with flat feet challenging but do-able. You can increase this distance as form can be maintained, without lifting up toes or letting weight transfer from feet to wall during the tap.

5.3: Immediately squeeze glutes to stand, tuck pelvis under gently at top. Hold glute contraction for a second at top before reaching hips back again. Work up to 20 reps.

5.3: Immediately squeeze glutes to stand, tuck pelvis under gently at top. Hold glute contraction for a second at top before reaching hips back again. Work up to 20 reps.

Exercise #6 – Shoulder Wall Slides

6.1: Stand against a large wall surface, with feet slightly in front of your body. Elbows bent just below shoulders, with palms facing forward. You are in the correct start position when butt, ribcage, shoulders, arms, and hands are firmly touching the wall. These points must stay in contact with the wall throughout the movement. End motion when any point loses contact.

6.1: Stand against a large wall surface, with feet slightly in front of your body. Elbows bent just below shoulders, with palms facing forward. You are in the correct start position when butt, ribcage, shoulders, arms, and hands are firmly touching the wall. These points must stay in contact with the wall throughout the movement. End motion when any point loses contact.

6.2: Keep abs contracted and glutes tight. Breathe regularly as you slide arms slowly toward ceiling, without losing wall contact at any point. Be conscious of breath filling up back of ribs, to avoid arching spine on inhales. Try not to let shoulders shrug as arms travel overhead - think of putting shoulder blades gently in back pockets.

6.2: Keep abs contracted and glutes tight. Breathe regularly as you slide arms slowly toward ceiling, without losing wall contact at any point. Be conscious of breath filling up back of ribs, to avoid arching spine on inhales. Try not to let shoulders shrug as arms travel overhead – think of putting shoulder blades gently in back pockets.

6.3: End motion when any point loses contact, then reverse to start position. Work up to 20 reps without losing contact points.

6.3: End motion when any point loses contact, then reverse to start position. Work up to 20 reps without losing contact points.

Exercise #7 – Standing Diagonal Leg Abduction

7.1: Stand tall with supporting leg square to front, knee soft. Gently rest fingertips (not hands) on wall, with very slight forward lean. Moving leg will be slightly bent and turned out, so foot is just off the floor. Pelvis stays still throughout, do not arch lower back or push ribs forward to produce movement.

7.1: Stand tall with supporting leg square to front, knee soft. Gently rest fingertips (not hands) on wall, with very slight forward lean. Moving leg will be slightly bent and turned out, so foot is just off the floor. Pelvis stays still throughout, do not arch lower back or push ribs forward to produce movement.

7.2: Initiate by squeezing glute on moving side, and sweep leg back on a diagonal, as far as lower back can stay still - do not arch back or push ribs forward. Hold glute contraction for a second before returning leg to start. Complete all reps on one side before switching. Work up to 20 reps on each leg.

7.2: Initiate by squeezing glute on moving side, and sweep leg back on a diagonal, as far as lower back can stay still – do not arch back or push ribs forward. Hold glute contraction for a second before returning leg to start. Complete all reps on one side before switching. Work up to 20 reps on each leg.

Exercise #8 – Half-Kneeling Chop

8.1: Kneel with front knee exactly over front ankle, back knee under back hip, back foot flat or flexed (as comfortable). Hips, feet, and knees stay square to front throughout. Legs should make right angles. Use cushion under knee if necessary. Bring palms together with straight arms, rotated toward the floor. Hips and knees must stay square to front. Gaze and head follow hands throughout.

8.1: Kneel with front knee exactly over front ankle, back knee under back hip, back foot flat or flexed (as comfortable). Hips, feet, and knees stay square to front throughout. Legs should make right angles. Use cushion under knee if necessary. Bring palms together with straight arms, rotated toward the floor. Hips and knees must stay square to front. Gaze and head follow hands throughout.

8.2: Slowly and with control, “chop” hands up on diagonal, over front knee, and above shoulder. Keep hips and knees square to front, eyes and head following hands throughout. Keep weight balanced between foot and knee - so you are rotating around your center line, not leaning to either side.

8.2: Slowly and with control, “chop” hands up on diagonal, over front knee, and above shoulder. Keep hips and knees square to front, eyes and head following hands throughout. Keep weight balanced between foot and knee – so you are rotating around your center  line, not leaning to either side.

8.3: Return to start position with control. Use shortened range of movement if stability cannot be maintained. Switch legs to switch sides. Work up to 20 chops on each side (as comfortable). Hips, feet, and knees stay square to front throughout. Legs should make right angles. Use cushion under knee if necessary. Bring palms together with straight arms, rotated toward the floor. Hips and knees must stay square to front. Gaze and head follow hands throughout.

8.3: Return to start position with control. Use shortened range of movement if stability cannot be maintained. Switch legs to switch sides. Work up to 20 chops on each side (as comfortable). Hips, feet, and knees stay square to front throughout. Legs should make right angles. Use cushion under knee if necessary. Bring palms together with straight arms, rotated toward the floor. Hips and knees must stay square to front. Gaze and head follow hands throughout.

Exercise#9 – Single Leg Hinge to Anterior Tap

9.1: Stand in front of a medium high surface (start with a higher surface and lower as balance and form can be maintained). Stand on slightly bent right leg, with left leg slightly bent and off of the ground. Foot, hips, and shoulders stay square to front throughout. Back stays absolutely flat throughout. Imagine left knee to left shoulder as one piece, no breaking at the hip on the left side as you move.

9.1: Stand in front of a medium high surface (start with a higher surface and lower as balance and form can be maintained). Stand on slightly bent right leg, with left leg slightly bent and off of the ground. Foot, hips, and shoulders stay square to front throughout. Back stays absolutely flat throughout. Imagine left knee to left shoulder as one piece, no breaking at the hip on the left side as you move.

9.2: Initiate by lifting left leg behind you, letting chest respond by tipping forward the same amount, so you don’t break at your left hip. Simultaneously, hinge at your right hip, reaching butt behind you with flat back, stretching right hamstring. Tap gently with your left hand. Keep weight in right foot, and hips back - do not transfer weight to your hand as you tap.

9.2: Initiate by lifting left leg behind you, letting chest respond by tipping forward the same amount, so you don’t break at your left hip. Simultaneously, hinge at your right hip, reaching butt behind you with flat back, stretching right hamstring. Tap gently with your left hand. Keep weight in right foot, and hips back – do not transfer weight to your hand as you tap.

9.3: Squeeze right glute to reverse movement and stand. Stand tall, holding glute contraction for a second, before putting left foot down for stability. Complete all reps on one side before switching. If balance cannot be maintained, find higher surface to tap, lower tap as stability and flexibility grow. Work up to 15 reps on each leg.

9.3: Squeeze right glute to reverse movement and stand. Stand tall, holding glute contraction for a second, before putting left foot down for stability. Complete all reps on one side before switching. If balance cannot be maintained, find higher surface to tap, lower tap as stability and flexibility grow. Work up to 15 reps on each leg.

Exercise #10 – Windmill

10.1: Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width, toes straight ahead or slightly turned out, and knees soft. Adjust your stance width as you go, as is comfortable. Hold arms up, parallel to the ground, with palms forward or turned slightly upward - do not let palms turn toward the floor. Arms will stay stiff throughout.

10.1: Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width, toes straight ahead or slightly turned out, and knees soft. Adjust your stance width as you go, as is comfortable. Hold arms up, parallel to the ground, with palms forward or turned slightly upward – do not let palms turn toward the floor. Arms will stay stiff throughout.

10.2: Initiate by sticking butt out slightly with soft knees, then reach right arm toward left toe. Simultaneously reach left arm higher towards the ceiling, with both arms straight. Let gaze and face follow the movement - so you are looking to your left side, or even up at your left arm, as comfortable. Left palm should also face left.

10.2: Initiate by sticking butt out slightly with soft knees, then reach right arm toward left toe. Simultaneously reach left arm higher towards the ceiling, with both arms straight. Let gaze and face follow the movement – so you are looking to your left side, or even up at your left arm, as comfortable. Left palm should also face left.

10.3: To return to standing, keep knees soft and butt behind you, and squeeze glutes as you de-rotate. Try not to let spine round, but instead move in one piece. Keep glutes engaged until you have reached the start position again, with arms out.

10.3: To return to standing, keep knees soft and butt behind you, and squeeze glutes as you de-rotate. Try not to let spine round, but instead move in one piece. Keep glutes engaged until you have reached the start position again, with arms out.

10.4:  Repeat on the other side for one full repetition. Work up to 15 reps on each side.

10.4: Repeat on the other side for one full repetition. Work up to 15 reps on each side.

 

About the Author: Amanda Greening is a Master Level Personal Trainer, Pilates Instructor, Certified Holistic Health Coach, and blogger at The Health You Want. She sees training clients at her home studio in Watertown, and Health Coaching clients at Workbar Cambridge. Get to know her on Twitter @DaHealthYouWant and Instagram @TheHealthYouWant.

Subscribe to the Workbar blog for original content on entrepreneurship, the mobile work style and business topics such as management, productivity and team building.  Our goal is to encourage and educate you on how to be a better worker!  Follow Workbar on Twitter and check out our Facebook page.

Working Remotely for Extroverts

The following is a guest post by Steph Yiu – a member of Workbar since 2012. 

stephworking

I got a DM from my friend Matt the other day.

“Yo!” he wrote. “I’m about to start working at a company that’s fully remote and thinking about joining you at Workbar a few days a week… I think commuting will be good for me to feel connected to the city / not go nuts.”

Matt and I are pretty similar in that we are both extroverts. We very randomly met at a Ruby on Rails workshop nearly three years ago and literally the next afternoon he and his girlfriend (now fiancee!) were at my house hanging out. When Matt told me he was thinking about working remotely, I realized that I had to write this blog post for him, because working remotely can be a tough adjustment for hyper-social weirdos like us. :)

Of course, there are a lot of structural things your company needs to do to help make a distributed workforce work. Things like not treating remote and non-remote workers differently, and having a really robust internal communication system.

However, as an extrovert, there are things you need to do to take care of yourself and make your new remote gig successful. Extroverts get energy from being around people, and working exclusively online can be exhausting. I’ve been a distributed worker at Automattic for a little over two years now. For Matt and any other distributed extroverts out there, here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Don’t move right away.

A mistake that people often make is that working remotely means you can immediately pick up and live anywhere. For an extrovert starting remote work, your existing support network is even more important than ever. Your new co-workers are hundreds (if not thousands) of miles away, so they’re not going to be the people joining for drinks after work, or random brunches on a Sunday morning. Your existing network of friends and old co-workers will continue to be your social support network, because a remote job can’t provide that for you.

2. Schedule your social life. 

When you work in an office, there are a lot of random interactions that we take for granted. It’s someone’s birthday so we gather around for cake. It’s the end of a project sprint and we celebrate with a team lunch. It’s a bizarrely cold Tuesday, so we all go out for drinks. For an extrovert like me, I love office culture stuff like this (to the point where I organized an Office Olympics at my old job).

When you work remotely, those sorts of unplanned social interactions don’t take place, so you have to be proactive in making sure they happen, because for extroverts these are little energy boosters that keep you going throughout the week. This means planning lunch with people who work close by, scheduling dinner or drinks with friends, or even planning 15-20 minutes a day to just putz around your co-working space and chitchat. Speaking of co-working spaces…

3. If possible, get a co-working space.

Choosing a co-working space that was within walking distance of my house was one of the best decisions I made in ensuring a happy work environment. On Twitter, Matt had asked me: “How do you like Workbar?” In my opinion, Workbar is the best co-working space in Cambridge. Here are two things I would look for in choosing a co-working space: The space caters to whatever work-style you need. The designers of Workbar Cambridge were extremely thoughtful in creating different types of workspaces, because everyone works differently. If you want to be around people, there’s a cafe space that mimics a coffee-shop. If you want to be heads-down, there’s a study space that has traditional desks. There’s also a variety of seating types: office chairs, standing desks, benches, bean bags, couches, picnic table (outside!), even a treadmill desk.

 

Enjoying the Cambridge skyline. Gotta love a coworking space with a deck. #100happydays A photo posted by Steph Yiu (@crushgear) on


Also, make sure the staff truly, genuinely cares about the co-working community. The Workbar team does lots of little things I appreciate, like making cold-brew coffee in the summer, having informal after-work happy hours, random karaoke parties, sometimes having a teddy bear do my work for me… They don’t have to do any of this stuff, but it’s all these small interactions that keep me going and make office life fun.

Just remember that with any community, you only get as much as much as you give. It wasn’t until I started going regularly and making an effort to attend Workbar events that I started seeing the value of the co-working space. Simply just dropping in once a week just wasn’t enough.

4. Get out of the house.

Without a commute or a mandatory office, my morning “get out of the house” routine is critical to maintaining my sanity. Every morning I take a full hour to eat breakfast, listen to podcasts, putz around the kitchen, and get dressed. And then Ihave to leave the house to work — whether it’s a walk to a coffee shop or to my co-working space.

I won’t open the laptop before I leave, otherwise I will get sucked in, and the next thing I know it will be 6 p.m. and I haven’t left my apartment or seen anyone else. Don’t get lazy about your “get out of the house” routine — it’s happened to me a few times and I absolutely hated it, and I was drained and bummed at the end of the day. And poor Emily, she had to come home to a stir-crazy roommate.

5. Go offline. I’m serious. 

Working remotely, you’ll quickly start to notice that your entire life will revolve around your laptop. Instead of chit chatting with your colleague at your desk, the conversation will be entirely through direct messages. Instead of brainstorming in a meeting room, it will be through video and text chat. Instead of watercooler chats in the hallway, there will be a Slack channel named watercooler.

The problem with all of this laptop-based communication is that you are quietly living in your head all day long. As an extrovert, not only does this drive me crazy, but it’s exhausting. Processing information over text is so much harder for me than processing a face-to-face conversation. So, in your off-hours, it’s super important to go offline, give your brain a break, and get out of your head. Put your phone away, go out to dinner, go see a show, go see a movie, go to a bar, go be social in an offline kind of way. It’s important for your sanity. And when you go on vacation, leave your laptop behind. Really.

 

Hiking trips are good for the soul. #summerbucketlist

A photo posted by Steph Yiu (@crushgear) on

6. Recognizing non-social cues of affirmation.

Social cues of affirmation are really important to an extrovert. Little things like a smile, nod, laughter, hug, a hello in the hallway, a random joke — all of these cues tell an extrovert that they are accepted into the community and are doing okay.

Those cues don’t exist in a distributed environment, and, depending on how much feedback your colleagues tend to give, there might not be a whole lot of “good job!” messages floating around your chat room. For a long time, I was convinced I was terrible at my job, until I realized that I wasn’t registering cues of affirmation, or positive feedback, because they were being expressed in a way I wasn’t used to. I know it sounds ridiculous, but someone saying “good job!” on text chat didn’t register in my brain as much as someone saying “good job!” to me in person.

Failing to internalize accomplishments can lead to something called “Imposter Syndrome,” a fear that you don’t deserve to be part of the group because you were hired or invited by accident. My colleague Allen blogged about this, and this sentence in his post really stood out to me:

quote

Feeling like you “belong” to an organization or a team of people while working remotely is exceedingly difficult. You don’t get peripheral, contextual workplace chatter that helps you settle in and get to know your co-workers – the hallway conversations, the chit chat about weather, the random “Nice haircut!” comment (online that becomes, “Nice new avatar!”). You also don’t get non-verbal cues of affirmation – eye-contact, a smile, a nod. This is tough for everyone, and it’s even harder if you’re an extrovert who requires that sort of communication to keep you going.

I don’t have an easy answer to this other than to make sure you recognize what you need to feel good about your job and your team, whether it’s more video calls, more travel to see your teammates, or training yourself to adjust to different types of affirmation. Either way, just be sure to keep an eye on how you’re feeling about work and why, because it will help you figure out ways to be successful at your job. That’s actually true for any job, extrovert or introvert, remote or not.

At the end of the day, I love working remotely because there’s an incredible amount of autonomy to tailor a work environment that works specifically for you. That’s a lot harder than simply adapting to a pre-existing office environment, and it requires a lot of trial and error (hey, it’s two years and I’m still working on it). But, in finding a solution that works for you, you’ll learn a ton about what makes you successful. Not only will your productivity skyrocket, but it will make your day-to-day work a heck of a lot more rewarding.

p.s. If you want even more excellent advice on working remotely, check out my colleague Sara’s post on “10 Lessons from 4 Years Working Remotely at Automattic.”

 

About the Author: Steph Yiu leads the support team for WordPress.com VIP. Read the original post and more by Steph at hoppycow.com and follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @crushgear.

Subscribe to the Workbar blog for original content on entrepreneurship, the mobile work style and business topics such as management, productivity and team building.  Our goal is to encourage and educate you on how to be a better worker!  Follow Workbar on Twitter and check out our Facebook page.