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Chapter 27 - Socialize

How to meet other humans outside of work and build great relationships.

“We human being are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. (..) For this reason, it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.”
Dalai Lama XIV

Working from home gives you energy to socialize after work!

As I’ve been working from home for almost two decades, people keep asking me if I don’t miss other humans. They look at me and they see an extrovert who seems to be trapped at home with no real contact with others. Things can’t be further from the truth.

I don’t miss people as I believe I have a better social life than most office workers out there! Yes, I really think so.

Just look at a typical office worker. They come home from work completely drained off energy. They’ve seen lots of people during their office day so now they want to be just let alone. That’s why many folks just resort to watching TV or binge-watching Netflix in the afternoons. They’re fed up with people.

Yes, the office workers socialize, but mostly on the weekends. But not on weekdays.

I’m the other way round. I don’t see people much during my workday and in the afternoons I can’t wait to do something with my family or meet up with friends. I have much more mental bandwidth to socialize.

Side note: I’m writing this chapter while we’re still in the global COVID-19 pandemic. It pains me to write this as I can’t socialize as much as I would now. But I’m hopeful that we’ll all get vaccinated and we’ll get back to much more socializing in the future. So I’m writing this chapter as something aspirational. I hope this chapter will be useful, soon!

People you choose to meet vs people you have to meet

The main difference between socializing at work vs after work is the quality of relationships. When you go to an office, you have to meet certain people whether you like it or not. Your boss or sheer circumstance chose these people to be in your place of employment and they are just there. You may like some of them, but others might not be your favorite kind of people. But you’re just stuck with them.

When you’re working from home, you just try not too connect too often with people at work you don’t like. And after work, you have much more agency to choose people you want to meet.

Another benefit is that with people from work you talk about… work. With your real-life friends you talk about other things.

Most importantly, people outside of work like you just the way you are. They don’t care if you’re a CEO or a manager or a line worker. They like you for you.

I should know. When my wife changed jobs and we moved to the place we live in now, many of her new colleagues thought that when I said: “I work from home” I really meant that I didn’t have a job. They thought it was my wife who was having a career and I was a stay-at-home dad. They didn’t know about my digital presence and that I was a CEO of a global software company. And they didn’t care as long as we had fun hanging out.

I don’t think I have to convince anyone how good it is to hang out with people and just be your true self.

Flexible working hours helps me socialize through sports!

One of my favorite way to socialize is through doing sports. I’m an amateur triathlete who likes to do some swimming, running and biking every now and then to stay in shape. A few years ago I also took up tennis classes and I’m getting better at tennis every year. These are all separate disciplines and all of them help me socialize.

As mentioned in Chapter 15 about flexible hours, when working form home I don’t work exactly 9-5. I always take a break at some point during the day to do some sports. And sometimes I do it alone (like running on the beach listening to an audiobook) but very often I do it with someone. Here are a few examples:

  • On Mondays I start work a little later as in the mornings I go for one hour of swimming with my buddy Salvador. We train together and after that we have a short coffee and both go back to our jobs.
  • On Wednesdays I try to work hard in the mornings to be able to have a longer break in the early afternoon for a 2-hour bike ride with one of my buddies: Robert, Dan or Nick (or all of them!)
  • On Fridays I have a weekly tennis match with my buddy Steve.

I’m telling you, I have a very busy social life through sports. All of these buddies are different people. When we do sports together we connect, we talk about many things, we build strong relationships. And man, each Friday after I’ve done my weekly review (see Chapter 16) and spent time on personal development (see Chapter 17), this tennis game with Steve is just icing on the cake. It’s a perfect way to finish a workweek.

Hobbies outside of work help connect with others!

Not only sports do the trick. Radek from our team and my co-host on “The Podcast”1 after work rides a bike to “Warsaw Hackerspace” where he gets to meet people from different backgrounds and companies. What they all have in common is they all like to hack complicated industrial machines to build interesting some things. Even though Radek considers himself an introvert, he loves to hang out with these folks and learn from them and hang out in a space that is just full of interesting things to do.

Again, thanks to the fact that he works from home and most of the day is alone, he has lots of emotional bandwidth to later meet people and build friendships that have nothing to do with his day job.

Children help meet new friends

While we’re talking about emotional bandwidth, there are creatures how seem to have just unlimited amount of it. Our children. After a whole day at school they still want to play, meet, run and do other crazy things.

If you have kids, take advantage of this energy and use it to your advantage by organizing play dates and meeting other kids’ parents.

I have three young daughters (12, 8 and 4 years of age) and what I learned in these few years of being a dad is that your circle of friends will be influenced by the school environment. Your kids will want to play with their friends so you’ll eventually meet these kids’ parents. So embrace it and get to know new people. Chances are if these kids like your kids, you’ll probably like their parents.

Instead of dreading organizing play dates, embrace them. Get to know the other parents and hang out with them while the kids play. This is how I got to know some of my best friends currently. Through my kids.

That’s why very often during the workweek we plan play dates in the afternoons and this way both the kids and the adults get to socialize.

The same rule applies to birthday parties. When people organize them, lots of kids come to play, but very few parents stay. Usually they just drop the kids off and later pick them up when the party is over. I get it. These adults get a few hours to themselves which is a treat. But if I can, I prefer to stay at such a birthday party. This way I just hang out and chat with the few parents that also remained. While the kids are playing we have a chance to get a beer or coffee and get to know each other. I’ve made quite a few new friends this way.

Motivate your team to have a life outside of work!

In Chapter 14 I explained the importance of promoting life outside of work in the team. How to give perks like gym memberships and other incentives to have hobbies after work.

It’s also about motivating people to share their life outside of work. Usually on our reunions (see previous Chapter) we ask our team members to do presentations on their hobbies. We learned about coffee roasting, home renovation, life in Taiwan, triathlon training, blood donation and many other things our team members are passionate about. This way we promote interests and get people to step out of their comfort zone and don’t try to pretend like their work life should be the only thing interesting in their lives.

Check in with people to make sure they really go out!

When the COVID-19 pandemic happened many business owners were asking me how to make sure that people who are now working from home truly work. It made me laugh. I told them not to worry about people not working. I said they should be worried about people working too much! I explained that I consider my main job making sure that my team members really get out of the house. Go for a walk. Meet with others. Get hobbies.

That’s why when doing my regular catch-up meetings with everyone on the team (see Chapter 24) I ask about their hobbies. I’m curious about what they’re up to outside of work. I just want to make sure they don’t crush and burn working. I want them to stay healthy and sane.

How to socialize in pandemic times? Use video conferencing!

Much like I explained in the previous chapters, how I connect with the other team members (see Chapter 24) and customers (see Chapter 25), you can simply use video conferencing to meet with people.

One of my closest friends lives only 2km from me but he’s really afraid of the virus and doesn’t want to meet in person, even outside with masks on. I don’t blame him, everyone has the right to be as cautious as they want to be and we should tolerate it. So we decided to schedule a monthly virtual coffee video meeting. We hang out, talk and just re-connect.

Me and my wife do that also with other couples we like. We cannot meet them in person now, so we just schedule an evening video conferencing session with them, put the kids to bed before, pour a glass of wine and hang out with our friends. This way we can still socialize and hang out with folks. Of course it’s not the same as meeting them in person, but again, we’re hopeful that this situation will not last and at some point we’ll get back to play dates, dinners and other social activities without exposing ourselves to a deadly virus.

The one thing: meet people after work!

Working from home gives you and everyone on your team an amazing opportunity to meet people outside of work. So make it a priority. Close down your computer and go out. Meet folks, get to know your neighbors and cultivate hobbies. As most of the day you are alone in your home office, you have a lot of energy and emotional bandwidth to socialize after work. This will make you happier and indirectly make you better at your work!

  1. We discussed Radek’s hobby in the episode 211 of The Podcast FM: ThePodcast.FM/211 

Next: Chapter 28 - Take time off

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