The COVID-19 crisis has resulted in the majority of us having to, without proper preparation or experience for some, now work remotely from home. For many of us, this ‘new normal’ way of working has been quite daunting and unsettling, particularly for those of us that have no prior experience of working remotely and accordingly no clear ‘guidelines’ as to how best to work remotely and how to manage the fine line between work and your personal, home life.
In addition to these challenges, one particular challenge we face when working remotely is how to remain connected with your other remote-working colleagues? How do you build trust and meaningful work relationships when you are not able to simply ‘pop round’ to someone’s desk and invite them for a coffee?
Being relational beings, we thrive on connection and relationships. In fact, having a sense of connection, community with our work colleagues is key to our feeling psychologically safe at work and to being more productive and motivated.
But in a remote world, can we build meaningful relationships, create these connections and avoid becoming isolated and disconnected from our work colleagues?
The answer is YES – it just requires a little more effort!
Here are some simple techniques you can employ to build meaningful remote work relationships:
Establish a Virtual ‘Watercooler’
Working from home carries the risk that you can start to feel isolated, ‘out of the loop’ and as a result, be less productive and de-motivated.
To counter this and to ensure that you keep developing your work relationships with colleagues, create a “virtual water cooler”. Set aside a set time each week to connect with your colleagues – and ensure that during this time you only discuss non-work related topics so that you can get to know each other on a more personal level. This will help foster a more trusting connection and relationship with your colleagues.
Make sure however that you do this via video conference – in the absence of ‘real world’ face-to-face contact, being able to at least see your colleagues faces, see their reactions will go a long way to building rapport and developing a sense of connection. It also requires you to be more engaged in the conversation – preventing you from listening with only a half ear while doing other tasks such as responding to emails, looking at your phone. If your colleagues are able to see you, you are more likely to remain and be engaged and to actively participate.
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” — Dale Carnegie
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate – And then Communicate Some More
When working remotely, communication is key to fostering and building meaningful relationships with your colleagues.
Schedule regular (preferably weekly) ‘meetings’ and video calls to ensure you are communicating regularly with your colleagues and managers. Not only will this build trust but it will also ensure that you are able to keep on top of matters, gain an understanding of what your colleagues are working on, how matters are progressing, and remain clear as regards expectations.
Sending daily ‘update’ emails, scheduling quick 15 minutes 1:1 calls with your manager, in which you provide updates on your progress and indicate any additional capacity you may have to help other colleagues, will assist further in engendering trust and building trusting and meaningful relationships.
Pick up the phone!
One of the dangers of working remotely is the inclination to rely on and overuse email communication as opposed to simply picking up the phone and speaking to your colleagues.
Not only can verbal communication avoid the possibility of misunderstandings and unnecessary conflict but it also helps foster better communication and hence connection.
Be open to volunteering to help, be willing to share knowledge and expertise that you may have that may be of benefit to your colleagues. This shows a willingness to be ‘part of the team’ and will go a long way to engendering trust and build relationships with your colleagues.
“Building a relationship is rare..’ Make the commitment wholeheartedly….” ― Napz Cherub Pellazo