Working from home can be pretty sweet: I too love that I can go from meeting to meeting without moving an inch. But there are parts of office life that I miss — you could usually find me having a hallway chat or socializing in the kitchen, not just because I love to chat (contrary to some) but to truly get to know my team. In today’s remote-first world, where we’ve replaced in-person interactions with gifs and virtual happy hours, the process of getting to know one another can feel more like additional work than play.
For someone like me who has always socialized with friends online, it was easy to translate those behaviors to work. I’d scroll through Slack like it was Instagram, opening the app without thinking and reacting to a post. I’d wonder if I was posting too little, or too much. I’d spend time thinking of something unique to share — not because I was stressed, but because I missed that face-to-face interaction. But I soon learned that when work and play happen in the same online arena, it becomes harder to separate the two, and I found myself feeling less focused and more exhausted.
"When work and play happen in the same online arena, it becomes harder to separate the two..."
And while I still can’t wait to wake up and hear everyone’s stories from the weekend, I’m trying to find healthier ways to connect while protecting my mental energy, one unread Slack thread at a time. So if you’re also feeling drained by the extra effort it takes to be social online, here are some things to keep in mind:
Just like you don’t need to smile at every person that walks by your desk, you don’t need to respond to every funny meme or someone's weekend pictures. It’s okay to miss these things and take a step back, and trust your team won’t forget you if you’re not always ‘on’.
Remember the last time you had a productive day where all you did was post and respond in Slack? Neither do I! Respond to messages that need your attention and forget (yes, forget!) about the rest. Similar to wearing headphones at your desk to help signal to co-workers to steer clear, use Slack statuses to communicate when you’re in a meeting or having focus time. And if you keep getting distracted, remember it’s much worse to miss a work deadline than to miss responding to a funny meme.
When you're part of a tightly-knit team, responding or posting on social Slack channels is tempting, and almost second nature. Take a breath and realize you don’t need to be everywhere. When you do contribute, it’ll provide value and brighten someone's day, rather than simply fill up space in the thread.
And lastly, don’t forget that we’re all different. Socializing at work comes in different forms and has varying importance for different people. Just like I’m not going to twist your arm to go to an in-person happy hour, I don’t expect you to share more than you need to online. We shouldn’t expect, nor should we feel the pressure to act a certain way just because we see others doing it.
Benaz Irani is a Product Design Manager helping our restaurants thrive. She’s based in Melbourne where she’s enjoying the city’s foodie and coffee culture way too much.