So… There is NO way I’m the first person to notice the parallels between the now more commonplace remote work situation many office workers find themselves in, and a long-distance relationship (LDR). As someone who was in an LDR for a while, the similarities are blatant to me and I thought they’d be fun to point out.
This post isn’t all-inclusive by any means, but it’s based on LDR tips that I see out there when I look it up on Google. That said, the 3 articles I’m pulling inspiration from for the long-distance advice can be found on LifeHack.org, Bustle.com, and ElephantOnTheRoad.com (if you ever want to read those yourself).
EVERYTHING listed below is something listed for an LDR. But as you read this, think of your workplace. Or, hey – if you’re looking for dating advice, this post might work out for you, too 😂
The Do’s of LDRs (& Remote Work)
DO: See it as an opportunity. Working remotely isn’t the death of a company or team. This is a chance for everyone to do what they do best while experiencing a level of work-life balance we haven’t collectively known in a while.
DO: Set some ground rules to manage your expectations. This one holds for all sides of the equation. Employers should let employees know what they expect in terms of productivity, culture, and participation – and employees should be able to set some boundaries as well.
DO: Stay honest with each other & have hard conversations. Do not be afraid to speak openly and honestly, especially about the hard things. Look at it this way – NOT talking about it could do far more harm when you’re long-distance than when you’re sharing the same physical space.
DO: Try to communicate regularly, and creatively. Touchbase with your teammates and coworkers on a regular basis to build or maintain a sense of rapport. Communication is key in any relationship, but especially LDRs. Remote work is in that same bucket.
DO: Participate in things together. Whether that’s team activities, virtual happy hours, or attending virtual conferences together – building shared experiences is important for any company. Especially now.
DO: Try out experiencing similar things. If you have a book you really love, maybe start a small discussion group to read it together virtually and discuss it. Talk about the shows you all are watching. Have competitions that get everyone involved.
DO: Try to visit each other. I know that COVID has a lot of people at home, and yeah – safety first. But if you all are willing to either prove that you’re vaccinated and haven’t been feeling sick, mask up and keep a healthy distance in person, or provide negative test results and a body temp scan (or something) — meeting up in person every once in a while can only strengthen your bonds right now. People need/want/miss that aspect of office life.
DO: Have a goal in mind. This isn’t the time to be aimless. Where is the work going? People in an LDR need an understanding of what the end aim of the distance is, and people who are working remotely honestly need that same courtesy when it comes to their jobs.
DO: Enjoy your alone time and your time with your friends and family. Allow people to feel safe disconnecting from work to recharge during non-work hours. Just because we’re all more reliant on slack and emails right now doesn’t mean that people want to regularly work beyond 40 hours a week because they’re at home.
DO: Get to know (and respect) each other’s schedules. People may have personal matters to attend to more often during work hours. So long as it’s not chronic or interfering with work results, but cool with that. But, for someone to be cool with that – you have to share elements of your schedules with each other — especially during crucial delivery times.
DO: Get a good messaging app & make time for video calls. If your virtual team/company hasn’t come up with a solution for staying in touch outside of emails yet, you’re behind. Catch-up if you want anything close to a “work culture” to remain when all of this swings back to office openings.
DO: Stay positive. You can’t let negativity settle in about an LDR that you’re in, and you shouldn’t allow that to happen with work either. Why? Because it is toxic and a self-fulfilling prophecy (take my word for it).
DO: Keep each other updated on important matters. Do not feel ashamed to let others know that you may be dealing with something tough right now. It will help them read the room and give you some space, and it’ll help you not look bad.
DO: Give each other nicknames. The dating advice said “pet names” (which is too much), but I actually don’t think nicknames are bad. They can honestly help coworkers feel a bit closer when they have inside joke nicknames for each other.
DO: Express your appreciation regularly in every way you can. Whether you are sending each other gifts or cards or gift cards — remember to let each other know that you appreciate the collective effort the group is putting in. That is something that is very easy for people to forget in LDRs and working remotely.
The Don’ts of LDRs (& Remote Work)
DON’T: Communicate excessively. Lifting this directly from the LifeHack source, “It is unwise to be overly ‘sticky’ and possessive. You … don’t really have to communicate 12 hours a day to keep the relationship going.”
DON’T: Entertain “dangerous” situations. Just like you wouldn’t cheat on the person you’re dating in an LDR, don’t cheat on your employer (and vice versa). I’ve seen articles about people having two full-time jobs during the same hours while working from home… That’s smart, but your employer wouldn’t like that any more than you would if you found out they outsourced your department. Play nice.
DON’T: Become predictable. Monotony kills all relationships over time.
DON’T: Send one-word responses. You have to think about how tone doesn’t translate well over text sometimes and how rude terse responses can seem when written. I’m not saying write a book, but don’t act like you just woke up and need coffee, either.
DON’T: Suggest an open relationship. See the note about “dangerous” situations. Play nice.
DON’T: Be excessively flaky. If you promise things but never deliver in an LDR, it’s a recipe for disaster. It is the same thing when you’re working remotely. Deliver. Show up. Prove your value.
DON’T: Checkout mid-conversation (especially during tense discussions). People like to feel heard and acknowledged. If you start regularly signaling that you’re clearly not listening, don’t expect the relationship (working or not) to last.
DON’T: Become jealous. Do not get jealous of your coworkers while working from home. I repeat: Do not get jealous of your coworkers while working from home.
DON’T: Make a habit out of silence. Face time (the activity, not the app) is important in work relationships. You want people to know that you’re involved. That truth is even more pronounced when you’re working remotely. Speak up, even when it’s unsolicited.
DON’T: Create a bigger distance after a disagreement. I remember being told, “Never go to bed angry at the other person,” when you’re in an LDR. There isn’t any in-person time coming up the next day to mend old wounds and your perception can fester and turn to resentment. That same truth applies to remote work. If you know a coworker or direct report or manager is angry with you — try to rectify the situation vs. just letting them sit with it while you all aren’t seeing each other in person.
DON’T: Make someone feel guilty for living their lives. Everyone works differently when they’re working from home. Do not make a parent spending time with their kids feel any more guilty than you would’ve made a smoker feel for taking a smoke break. The one between work and life is SUPER blurry as of late, so learn to live with it (for lack of better phrasing).
DON’T: Let your employee/employer/team doubt that you care. If you let it settle in that you don’t care about the relationship, what the hell are either of you doing there?
DON’T: Jump to conclusions. A phrase I like from my current job is, “Always assume good intent.” Even if you know about something that doesn’t feel quite right – until you know all of the facts, always assume good intent. This is true of both LDRs and remote working.
Everything above was listed as a point of advice for a long-distance relationship… Can you see why I say working remotely is very similar to being in an LDR now? I can’t guarantee you that if you stick to these pointers, nothing will happen to you as a remote employee – but better safe than sorry.
To anyone who happens across this looking for LDR advice and you’re disappointed because this is about work, hey — relationships are work, you just don’t get paid for it in the traditional sense.
I leave you with the ultimate advice that I now give to anyone in an LDR: Don’t forget why you fell for each other in the first place. Do what you can to keep the magic going.
Apply that to your remote work situation.
If anyone has any thoughts or knows of something that I left off the list, please don’t hesitate to share in the comment section below.