The importance of play as a remote rockstar

Being a remote employee is fun, but it can also be stressful and lonely.

Wayne Turmel, co-founder of the Remote Leadership Institute suggests that remote workers tend to feel this way for two specific reasons:

  • Communication doesn’t happen spontaneously, you have to write that email or pick-up the phone, rather than bump into someone or head to their desk for a casual conversation.  
  • People tend to become task-focused when they work by themselves, so anything that “wastes time” or is seen as not obviously productive is discouraged.

Turmel explains, “Both of these things conspire to make work a series of tasks, uninterrupted by the kind of pleasant, harmless, and ultimately critical things that make going to work and dealing with other humans bearable.”

This is why play is so important to being the best remote rockstar you can. When you have fun with work and build play and communication into your day, it feels less like an endless list of tasks. Use these tips from remote experts and global leaders to go from a burned out remote rockstar to an excited long-distance employee who’s not just productive, but happy too.

Play takes you out of the digital world - Step away from the computer to do something fun

Ross Palmer, CEO and Founder of Aloa Marketing likes playing golf to inject play into his day. While he agrees that may sound a little “cliché”, he makes a great point:

“I find that having an objective that is 100 per cent based in the physical world we live in is important for the mind, body, and soul. Many of us spend all day in the digital domain – shuffling numbers around on a screen in front of us. We get our digital world confused with the real world, so it’s great to have a constant reminder of what the ‘rules’ of the real world are as well.”

The point here is not to become a golf aficionado. Rather, find ways to play outside, whether you take a walk around the block or play a game of pick-up basketball at a local park. The lines between our real life and our digital life can get blurry with remote work, but they don’t have to.

Play makes you happy - Take enjoyable breaks

Don’t just tab over to your Facebook page and mindlessly scroll through updates to give you brain a break. Social media drives anxiety, which could heighten any stress you’re already feeling. Instead, Jonathan Denn, Chief Thinking Officer of Drumbeat Productivity suggests taking enjoyable breaks:

“Get some exercise you enjoy. Step out into nature or look at something beautiful or inspirational. Maybe play a game of speed chess or other game. Anything that isn’t work that you enjoy. In DRUMBEAT [Denn’s newest book] my simple test is, if you do something that is completely absorbing and you smile sometime while doing it – you’re playing your day!"

Play makes tedious meetings better - Have fun with co-workers

Meetings give you a chance to connect with co-workers, which is an important tool for reducing isolation. Still, most would agree that meetings aren’t always fun. That’s why Sally Strebel, Founder and COO of Pagely made a change: "We started role-playing different situations during our meetings in order to increase our empathy and compassion for our clients and team. It’s fun to see both sides and it’s quite hilarious.”

There are many ways to make your meetings more playful and fun. Here are a few ideas to try with your team:

  • The last person to the meeting has to tell a joke.
  • Have a “rap airhorn” leader and every time a good idea is said, they use a “rap airhorn” app to celebrate the idea. (Like this app.) Guaranteed to get laughs.
  • Set a timer for the meeting, and when it goes over, the meeting leader has to share an embarrassing story; if they don’t, everyone can leave.
  • Have happy-hour meetings; remote employees grab a drink and snack on the company dime while in-house employees share food and drinks in the office.

Play makes you more productive - Bring gamification into the workplace.

You may not be the person who decides on company-wide initiatives, but you can use these amazing results from, a company with 134 remote employees, to persuade leadership that gamification is worth a try:

 “Thanks to gamification we were able to improve our employee retention by 21.1 percent and our productivity by 14.6 percent,” says Cristian Rennella CEO & CoFounder.

Their company game was called "Learn to Win" and used different levels, points, prizes and a board with positions that were reached depending on the achieved goals. Employees move up in the game based on number of books read, courses or tutorials taken, podcasts listened to, etc. All employees also have $200 per month to invest in their online education, allowing everyone the same chance to compete in the company-wide competition.

For many companies, this type of gamification is a win-win. You (and other remote employees) become more engaged and have fun within the work environment, while learning more and being encouraged to broaden your skill set.

Become a happy remote rockstar

Play is important for all employees, but especially those who work remote. It’s easy to feel isolated, let stress bring you down, and stay plugged into the job late into the evening, all of which can lead to anxiety and unhappiness with work. Use play to change things around, whether you’re competing with co-workers to listen to the most podcasts or play a game of soccer at lunchtime. Take play as seriously as you take work, and you may just find you’re getting more done and enjoying it at the same time.


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