Did you know that 75 million U.S. employees (56% of the U.S. workforce) have a job that allows for remote work? With the sudden introduction of COVID-19, remote work was adopted almost overnight. Even in these unprecedented times, there are benefits to remote work like better work/life balance, increased productivity, and less time spent commuting. However, remote work can come with its challenges — it can be lonely and hard to "turn off", especially when you add a quarantine.

According to a survey by Buffer, 21% of respondents said loneliness was the top drawback of working remotely. Water-cooler conversations and in-person chats about the 'Hamilton' premiere on Disney Plus have been replaced by web-surfing, Zoom calls, and FaceTime sessions. As human beings, we still crave personal connections that are critical for social and professional networking.

For the 78% of remote workers who are working from their home, networking with people face-to-face (even virtually) can reduce feelings of isolation, increase collaboration, and build connections and community.

1. Join LinkedIn groups.

Aside from LinkedIn's value in connecting people for resume inquiries and job searches, the popular platform also provides a wide variety of groups where you can connect by profession, location, personal interests, passions, and more.

2. Connect with your alma mater.

Whether you use Facebook or LinkedIn, you can connect with alums from your beloved alma mater, near and far, across generations and continents. Your shared history and intimate knowledge of your school's traditions, sports teams, etc. can serve as a great building block for building relationships, both personal and professional.

3. Be a Slack-er.

One of the most valuable tools to have in your remote work tech stack is Slack. It connects you with coworkers, allows you to share ideas, and helps you reach new colleagues and friends. Slack communities provide unlimited opportunities for connecting with people with similar interests. Check out these Slack communities for remote workers of all interests, professions, and hobbies.

4. Get on Reddit.

With 330 million monthly active users and over 138,000 active communities, Reddit has a thread or group for everyone. Explore your interests, ask for advice, and find work in this digital collaboration platform. Telecommuters and remote workers will find an instant community in these remote work subreddits.

5. Use virtual coworking spaces.

Coworking spaces are a great alternative to working from home. While many aren't operating due to coronavirus (COVID-19), there are virtual office solutions like Pragli and Sococo that help people connect with one another, wherever they may be.

When it's safe for coworking spaces to reopen there are a few different coworking spaces to consider. We're all familiar with WeWork, which places a heavy emphasis on social events like happy hours and "lunch and learns". Others include Regus, which offers space and meeting rooms in 475 cities across the U.S., and Workbar, which offers cozy coworking spaces and opportunities for social gatherings in the Boston area.

6. Go to the office (when it's safe to).

Some employers require remote workers to come to the office on occasion, even just once a week. It can be of great benefit to everyone, forcing employees out of their "comfort zone" and allowing employers to reconnect face-to-face. When it's safe to return to the office, your days can be spent networking with other teams, meeting new employees for the first time, or scheduling lots of coffee meetings with teammates to catch up.

7. Identify online meetups to join.

Meetup is an online tool that connects you with people in your local community who share similar interests. Categories include hiking, cooking, photography, and learning a new language. Join a virtual meetup to chat with people who share your hobbies and are also looking to try new things — the possibilities are endless.

8. Pursue your hobbies.

Maybe you played piano as a kid and haven't played in a while. Search for online group piano classes or see if a local music school in your area is offering virtual group lessons. You may very well find other folks who are looking to network and make new contact with people. Spending time on something you enjoy or you're passionate about is not only personally fulfilling but opens the door to meeting people with similar interests. Who knows what other professional doors these encounters might open for you.

9. Volunteer your time.

Find a volunteer opportunity online using tools like VolunteerMatch. Simply type in your location, click the 'Get Started' button, and filter your search results by virtual opportunities — this way you can find safe and socially distanced volunteer options. Whether you decide to call a nursing home to connect with elderly members of your community or help people register to vote, there are countless opportunities to reach out and give back. By volunteering your time, you'll have the opportunity to connect with people through a shared passion which can be even more rewarding than you might have imagined.

10. Attend virtual networking events.

Trade shows and industry seminars are being reimagined for the digital world. SaaStr is hosting online events and programming for thousands of virtual attendees. And online conferences like the Remote-First 2020 give business leaders and remote workers alike the opportunity to learn about the future of work from thought-leaders in the remote work space.

With remote networking, you might just end up discovering a hidden talent you never knew you had or meeting a new friend or a valuable business contact who can open up a world of possibility. Networking is a great option for freelancers or those starting a remote side hustle as well. Use opportunities like virtual meetups or events to connect and get your name out there! One of the best ways to get new clients is word of mouth. You never know when someone will need your services, or know someone else who does.

Looking for more? Check out these remote work and telecommuting statistics next.

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