Working remotely is a much-loved perk of working in this industry. However, it’s no secret that working outside of the office for an extended period can be isolating, especially when you results driven.

This uninterrupted time of focus is often the very reason it’s savored. Most would agree that the ability to decrease distractions is an elusive ideal in this pinging and blinking digital world. But how much time away is ideal for close-working teams? How do you determine this?

Humans naturally prefer to maintain some degree of contact with their ‘tribe,’ (our modern social circles) which stems from a protective instinct with deep biological roots. The power of groups and these biological mechanisms have been a major point of interest of scientists for many years. Positive reinforcement from our peers compounded over days, months and years is so powerful that it can actually insulate physical health and improve psychological well-being. The immune system gets a boost so that it can combat illness more effectively, and even against disease like high blood pressure (which are exacerbated by stress).

Patients with addictive disorders recover faster in group therapy vs. individual therapy and not surprisingly, recover more easily and report higher levels of satisfaction and wellbeing as the level of their social support increases. Studies show that going through difficult experiences – even with complete strangers – can positively impact our ability to cope. A group can offer insight, compassion, and a sense of belongingness – a united feeling of “we-ness.” By telling our narratives we find meaning in life’s shared struggles. It instills hope when others identify with our stories and hear living proof of overcoming similar challenges.

On a smaller level, our daily interactions consist of many unspoken norms that occur outside of conscious awareness. These dynamics can be found in every type of system from families and friends to larger cultural and religious groups. So how could this affect our interactions with coworkers? For one, working outside the office removes any opportunity for interactions that may buffer us from stressful situations in our environment.

Imagine receiving negative feedback and in the first scenario you’re working remotely and there’s no one to discuss this criticism with. Maybe you worked extra late to make this deadline, and the criticism comes as a shock since you carefully reviewed the client’s requirements. Maybe you brush it off without batting an eyelash, chalking it up to something outside your control. Most likely though, given your sincere effort, the criticism lingers a bit.

The simple act of someone in your “tribe” acknowledging the situation validates your experience and can help soften the impact of criticism.

In the second scenario, you’re in the office when you receive the feedback ­– for the entire team to hear. While this scenario sounds uncomfortable, even in a moderately supportive environment several positive interactions may unfold. A senior designer may be able to normalize the situation, providing support through a different perspective… The simple act of someone in your “tribe” acknowledging the situation validates your experience and can help soften the impact of criticism

This behavior modeled by other team members can even promote altruistic tendencies within the team, creating a positive, cyclical impact (think paying it forward, but not as obvious). These instances don’t only reinforce the idea that our team has our back, but translates to improved ability to manage stress, and increased resilience in the face of setbacks, even outside of work. In what ways do you see your work environment impacting your ability to handle stress, or does it?

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