Working from home has many advantages. I have an office with a door and a window, a fully stocked kitchen with all of my favorite foods and a much shorter commute involving a few stairs and no traffic. However, I don’t have co-workers hanging around where I can bump into them in hallway to catch up on the latest news or just to socialize for a few minutes. It’s important to make sure that you don’t lose this connection to your colleagues just because you don’t work in the same office.
For many of us, social media helps to fill this gap. Not all of your colleagues are going to be on Twitter, Facebook or other social websites, but hopefully, you can at least keep up with a few of them. This can also be a sensitive topic for many people, so don’t be offended if some of your co-workers don’t accept your friend requests.
I know a few people who carefully separate their work and personal lives and aren’t interested in mingling them. One person I know has a “secret” blog where he talks about his family using only family member’s initials to respect their privacy, and he keeps this completely separate from his Twitter account and other professional blogs. Other people pick one social website, like Facebook, for personal activities and others, like Twitter or LinkedIn, for communicating about work. Many of us don’t make these distinctions, but it is important to respect your colleagues’ choices.
It can be difficult to keep up with everyone, so it can help to have ways to keep up with your co-workers to avoid losing their updates in the wave of updates from other friends. Here are a couple of tips:
Friend Lists in Facebook
Friend lists in Facebook perform two very useful functions. First, they can allow you to filter the information you see in your news feed based on how you’ve grouped your friends into lists. For example, you could have a work list that you can check separately to see what your colleagues have been doing. A quick check in the morning and another at lunch would help you keep up with people at work while minimizing the time you spend on it.
The other way to use lists is to control privacy, so for those of you who want to maintain privacy while also connecting with co-workers on Facebook, you can still limit how much information they see. If you spend a lot of time partying with friends or to respect the privacy of your children, you might consider hiding photos from your coworkers as one example.
Twitter lists are another good way to keep up with work friends, especially since many of the commonly used Twitter clients have built-in support for the feature, allowing you to use lists separately in columns or other views. I know some people who keep separate lists for professional and personal contacts, which is a good way to keep the streams distinct.
In my case, most of my friends work in the technology industry, so I don’t separate based on work vs. personal friends. However, I do keep a separate list of family and close friends where I want to read every tweet. I also have a short list of people that I like to follow more closely because what they say is almost always interesting and relevant for me, and I try to read as much as I can from them.
The best thing about this approach is that you can expand it to include leaders in your industry or people in similar jobs at other companies, broadening your virtual water cooler out beyond your immediate co-workers.
How do you keep up with your colleagues when you work remotely?
Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Social Media in the Enterprise