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How to Thrive as an Extrovert on a Remote Team

By Bethany Hills · April 1, 2019

Hi! I’m Bethany, Product Manager and extrovert. Super nice to meet you!

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People often confuse being extroverted with being an outgoing person. And a lot of times the two traits do go hand-in-hand.

But to me, being extroverted isn’t about being outgoing. It describes the way an individual gains and loses energy. Nothing gives me more energy than socializing and collaborating with my friends and coworkers. When I walk out of a meeting, I feel inspired, energized, and ready to take on the world. Personal interactions are the way I recharge.

This posed a problem for me when I joined Zapier, an all-remote team. The remote aspect of my job provides many benefits I enjoy, but the lack of in-person contact has been a real challenge for me.

With the help of my Zapier coworkers, I’ve developed a few practices that I find vital to my day-to-day well being. Here are our best practices for thriving as an extrovert on an all-remote team.

Consider social activities as a form of self-care

When I worked in an office environment, I could be passive about social interaction because it was an inherent part of my day. On a remote team, much of our communication is written in tools like Slack. While I love communicating via emojis, it’s not the same type of communication that feeds my extroverted soul.

In a remote world, you have to be intentional about in-person socialization. This can come in a variety of ways for extroverts on our Zapier team:

I’m a runner and my running group is the way I socialize and de-stress, so I make time for it. I also prioritize meetups, hackathons, and professional groups that relate to my development as a Product Manager.

Andra Roston, who I used to work with, also prioritizes spending time with groups: "One of the best things about working remotely is that it leaves me the social energy for the times I want. I crossfit and do theatre, both of which are social activities."

Cody Jones, Director of Partnerships at Zapier, relies on his home base and community ecosystem: "I have 3 boys that love to rough-house, play, and get into all sorts of mischief. I see my parents and siblings each weekend as well. I’m also very involved in my local community—I’m a scout leader which means I spend about 4 hours each week with a bunch of boys and their parents."

Tim Anderson, when working remotely, is intentional about making plans: "I try hard to plan to meet up with friends. In remote work, you no longer have the easy, 'who wants to grab a beer after work?' thing going, so that requires a lot more planning."

Whether it’s sports, a hobby, or hanging out with family and friends, recognize these activities are the primary way you’ll recharge—and prioritize them appropriately.

Prioritize your social activities, because they are a form of self-care. It’s easy to blow off social activities when you’ve been working in your pajamas all day and your Netflix queue is full. Which brings me to my next tip…

Put your shoes on

Literally, put your shoes on in the morning. I’m twice as likely to leave the house if I stick to my morning routine and get dressed. Whether I plan to work from a coffee shop, go for a run, go to happy hour, or attend a meetup I make sure I’m dressed to do so with my shoes on before I start work in the morning.

Zapier co-founder Mike Knoop, also uses this trick: "It’s such a small thing but it works. When my shoes are on, I’m at work and I’m ready to tackle the day."

This tiny change in your morning routine can really make a difference. For me, the simple act of putting my shoes sets a positive and intentional tone that shows up in my work and social life.

You Look Fantastic GIF

Leverage technology

When I worked in an office, my go-to move was to grab some coworkers and head to a whiteboard. Working remotely changed that. I really missed the tactile nature of whiteboards and the ease of ad-hoc communication.

Luckily, there are tools that can help replicate in-person collaboration in a digital space. Some my team use daily include:

  • Mural, a digital workspace that offers digital stickies, whiteboards, and a lot of other great features

  • Zoom, our video conferencing solution

  • Slack, where most of our day-to-day communication happens

Using these tools is a great way to recreate in-person collaboration. Chris Patrick, on our People Ops team, finds virtual coworking sessions a useful way to connect with members of his team via technology. And Andy Wilkinson would pair up with teammates over Zoom or Slack calls when responding to customer emails.

These are great tools, but they’re only effective if you use them. So grab a colleague and open up a digital whiteboard or hop on a call to brainstorm. Make the most of the technology you have available to you, and you’ll feel a difference in your day-to-day productivity.

Engage With Your Remote Team

Because we communicate mostly in writing, it can be easy to watch conversations roll by without engaging. And, for the same reason, it can be hard to build relationships with your team.

Be diligent about participating. At Zapier, we have a culture full of jokes, gifs, and emojis in Slack. I find when I fully participate in these conversations I feel connected to my coworkers and spend a lot of my day actually lol-ing.

Andra Roston dedicates time to relationships with remote teammates: "I try to spend time in our #fun Slack channels. I also make the absolute most of Zapier retreats, and try to maintain the relationships I forge thereafter."

Danny Schreiber on the marketing team takes advantage of in-person time when he does see his team (such as our company retreats) to build relationships: "When we're together in-person as a company I find myself taking full advantage of it and soaking up the time—mixing up who I dine with, grabbing drinks/coffee between things, staying up too late in the game room, etc."

I’m fortunate to live in Austin, TX where a few other Zapiens also live. We organize monthly lunches and weekly coworking sessions at coffee shops. We even threw a holiday potluck! On the flip side, I also try to engage with my remote team. We have a weekly pair chat program and informal video hangouts that help facilitate these types of interactions.

When I focused my energy on engaging in the culture of our team and building relationships, it changed the way I perceived remote work. This type of focus builds a sense of community where we as extroverts thrive.

Related: If your teammates are spread across the world, it can be an even harder challenge to engage with them. Fear not, here's how to work across time zones.

Finally, ask for help

Social interaction comes passively in an office. In a remote environment, you have to be much more intentional. That can be a hard transition.

Be proactive about your self-care. About 3 months into my employment, I felt lonely and isolated. I loved my team and the work, but spending time by myself all day, every day negatively impacted my well being.

Answer me honestly: Do you need help? GIF

I reached out to my manager for help, and we brainstormed some solutions, like testing out a coworking space, attending meetups, and prioritizing social events. I wish I had asked for help sooner because there were two positive outcomes of that meeting.

The first is that I had the support and encouragement from my manager while I worked through this challenge. I felt less isolated immediately after that conversation.

The second is that I started being intentional about self-care as an extrovert. And that led me to raise the subject with my team and define these best practices that I’m now sharing with you.

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A Zap with the trigger 'When I get a new lead from Facebook,' and the action 'Notify my team in Slack'