Overcoming Social Anxiety On Remote Teams
First off, don’t lose hope! Struggling with anxiety is not your fault and something many people struggle with. You can indeed overcome anxiety on remote teams by being open about it, communicating effectively, and getting the help you need.
If the anxiety becomes overwhelming, make sure to see a therapist. Remote work might not be right for you if your anxiety is causing issues that can’t be resolved through day-to-day work and therapy. If you’re experiencing severe social anxiety on a remote team, an in-person team likely won’t be any better. Looking for jobs where you don’t have to interact with people may be best. This doesn’t make you a weak person, it just lets you excel in an environment that you work best in.
Social anxiety on remote teams isn’t a death sentence for your career. With increased communication and a little help from your colleagues and managers, you can become more comfortable with working remotely and becoming more confident in your abilities. Let’s take a look at some tips for working with, not against, your anxiety while working remotely.
General Information About Social Anxiety
Social anxiety is characterized as a persistent fear about being judged and evaluated by others. It manifests in fears of saying or doing something wrong, speaking in front of groups, meeting new people, and much more.
It's important to understand that social anxiety is more than simply shyness or introversion. For example, introverts tend to avoid social situations because they're mentally drained by them—not because they're afraid of them. They enjoy solitude because it gives them an opportunity to recharge their mental batteries. Introverts typically don't feel anxious in a social situation; they simply feel tired afterward!
On the other hand, if you have social anxiety you may have difficulty enjoying yourself even when there are no other people around; after all, you might see someone later in the day and be forced into a conversation with them! You may also be able to pinpoint certain aspects of a situation that trigger your anxiety—such as public speaking or small talk.
Move At Your Own Pace
Moving at your own pace is important. Pushing yourself too hard will make you feel worse, so understand that it’s okay to be anxious and it’s okay to take time getting comfortable with your new work world.
It's also helpful to start slowly and focus on making one aspect of remote work less anxiety-producing before moving on to another. Are you most stressed about communicating with co-workers? Start there. Figure out a way to be more comfortable with that before tackling larger obstacles like being productive without being micromanaged.
Learn Where Your Social Anxiety Stems From
If you’d like to overcome your social anxiety, it’s important to understand the source of your social anxiety. Your social anxiety may have started from an event in the past, it may be related to a fear of the unknown, or it may stem from a life-long struggle with confidence or the fear of being judged. By identifying what underpins your social anxiety, you can better address its root cause.
If for example, you are afraid of being judged by others on your remote team because you performed poorly on an assignment in college when you were 18 years old, then change the narrative. When that old story plays through your mind, remind yourself that this was X years ago and there is no evidence that anyone will judge you based on an event from so long ago.
The next time that story shows up again in your head (and it will), repeat this narrative and reframe how you think about yourself. Chances are that others aren’t aware, or at least won't remember (if they’ve known you for a while) what happened back then so why should it impact how you feel about yourself now?
Try putting these ideas into practice the next time you find yourself struggling with a negative thought about yourself or are feeling anxious.
Learn Your Triggers
Once you’ve begun to understand the root of your social anxiety at work, it’s time to figure out what triggers it.
It can be helpful to make a list of social settings that trigger your anxiety. Some common examples include:
- Being asked questions during meetings (especially public ones)
- Performance reviews and evaluation processes (even if they are done privately)
- Giving presentations or presentations with Q&A portions
- Being on camera for a video call with multiple people in the room
- One-on-one check-ins with leaders or mentors
Figuring out what triggers your social anxiety will give you the time to prepare for these situations. For example, if being put on the spot during a meeting gives you social anxiety, figure out why.
Likely it’s because you feel you will say something dumb, or won’t have anything of value to contribute. If this is your trigger, take extra time before meetings to prepare for potential questions that could be asked in the meeting. You could also share this struggle with your supervisor and ask them not to put you on the spot, and let you know what material will be covered in meetings prior to the meeting so you can adequately prepare.
Work on Self-Acceptance
At the heart of overcoming social anxiety is being comfortable with yourself.
Social anxiety is largely rooted in a fear of judgment from other people, which can stem from feelings that one’s opinions are not as valuable or interesting as others’ opinions, or that one’s physical appearance doesn’t measure up to others’ appearances.
In order to overcome this kind of social anxiety, you must first be comfortable with yourself as well as your own opinions and appearance.
Being comfortable with yourself means having an awareness of your strengths and weaknesses and accepting them for what they are, even if those things don’t conform to societal standards.
It also means being able to stand up for yourself when necessary, learning how to set boundaries, learning how to say “no” without feeling guilty, learning how to take criticism constructively without internalizing it, learning how not to let other people's bad behavior affect you negatively, and learning how not to feel obligated all the time.
Therapy is a great place to learn how to do this, but if therapy is too big of a time or financial commitment, check out these great podcasts that address anxiety and self-acceptance.
- The Hardcore Self-Help Podcast
- Not Another Anxiety Show
- Love, Happiness, and Success with Dr.Lisa Marie Bobbie
- Your Anxiety Toolkit
What people need in order to thrive on remote teams is not a lack of anxiety but the right set of skills. Get help from HR or a mental health professional if needed.
Some people handle social anxiety better than others and some need a little extra help. It's important to be aware of your needs. If you are having trouble overcoming social anxiety on your own, don't hesitate to reach out for help.
Check with your HR department to see if they offer in-house mental health services or can point you in the right direction of a local specialist who works with remote employees. There are many ways social anxiety can be treated and managed, so don't give up. The best way to overcome social anxiety is to work on it.