How to Develop Stronger Work Relationships Remotely
So your company has made the leap and committed to remote work for the long haul. In many ways, that’s the dream: More flexible hours, no commute, work the day away in your most comfortable pajama bottoms. It can make it difficult, however, to strengthen work relationships when everyone seems to be on their own. But with some time and effort, it’s possible
1. Embody kindness
While being kind to those around us is something we should all strive to do every day, it’s particularly important when dealing with your remote coworkers. Why? Everyone is coming at the same situation in different ways, and kindness is the string that holds it all together. Whether you’re working with young adults who may be struggling to find their place in the newly shifted corporate world, or you’re surrounded by harried parents juggling young kids, empathy goes a long way. Make an effort to be nice to those with whom you interact, and you’ll likely find yourself in a calmer, more positive headspace of your own.
2. Keep communication lines open
You’ve likely heard it over and over when it comes to remote work: Communication is key. But this applies, not only to the actual work you and your colleagues get done, but also to maintaining and strengthening the work relationships you have with each other. Checking in with each other on a more personal level—asking about someone’s weekend or mentioning your kid’s upcoming birthday—doesn’t have to take long. Even just a few minutes of relaxed chatting before or after a meeting can help make up for all the missed watercooler moments or lunch breaks that naturally serve this sort of purpose for in-office workers.
3. Respect the clock
Oftentimes, remote colleagues are spread all over the country (or the world). This means it’s more important than ever to respect the idea of time—both yours and other people’s. You can do this by making sure meetings are scheduled during a time that doesn’t force your West Coast coworker to wake up at 4am or by ensuring everyone’s made aware of that appointment you have next week that’ll keep you away from your computer. The easiest and most efficient wayto do this is to maintain a shared calendar that’s kept up-to-date with each employees activities and projects. This way, collaborations can be done at times that work for everyone.
4. Join (or create) social groups
Sometimes, you can’t sit around and wait for office bonding to happen—you have to make it happen. That’s when joining (or creating, if there aren’t any) “after-work” virtual communities can really strengthen your “during-work” relationships. Whether it’s social justice advocacy meetings, a book club, or even a shared interest in video games, explore the different options that are available—or make one of your own. This is an ideal approach to get to know your colleagues in a way that simply can’t be done during office hours. You’ll likely find your collaboration on something fun often translates to a renewed sense of collaboration on projects for work.
5. Mind your Ps and Qs
With so much communication happening via emails and office messaging apps, it can be tempting to use it as a shorthand to get your point across. But all this writing makes tone that much more important, which means you should strive to make your message as palatable as possible. Be sure to include “please” and “thank you” in your communications, as well as a short personal message at the front—this can be something as simple as “I hope you’re having a great day!” While it may seem like a small thing, this really can make the difference between a harsh, stressful message and a friendly reminder that we’re all in this together.
It can be difficult to maintain, never mind strengthen, bonds with your coworkers while working remotely. But with plenty of patience, empathy, and effort, these types of work relationships don’t have to fall by the wayside. Instead, they can become even stronger and more resilient than they ever were before.