When you work remotely a big challenge can be building strong relationships with your colleagues. This can be hard even when you do go into an office every day! But without sharing a work space you don’t have the opportunity to grow a friendship over the coffee machine, lunches, or after hours drinks.
We’re social creatures by nature but beyond the instinct for human connection, not having a strong relationship with the people you work with can work hurt you. We’ve all heard about the positive impacts having a “work best friend” brings with it. On top of this being friendly with a coworker may make it more likely for information to be shared with you or that you are top of mind when a new project comes up. It’s often not to be deceitful, it’s simply that people gravitate towards interacting with those who they enjoy.
This holds true not just for my fellow remote workers. Anyone who works at a company with multiple offices or who works with external vendors and spends a lot of time on the phone or emailing them can relate to the challenge, but very real need, to forge a relationship virtually.
So how do you do it? Here are my 6 go-to ways to begin to grow a strong working relationship when you don’t share a work-space with someone:
- Try. In my experience the number one way you can build a strong relationship with coworkers while remote is to put in the effort. Really try: ask questions. Remember answers and ask follow ups. Find common ground.
- Be friendly, in a way genuine to you. Going hand-in-hand with trying is to be friendly. It amazes me how quickly people in the workplace forget what a long way kindness goes. I’m friendly, open, and genuinely interested in people. I understand that not everyone is me so maybe being a gregarious version of yourself isn’t right for you. That’s okay, you don’t need to become overnight obsessed with your coworkers (in fact, don’t…) but you do need make an effort to be a person who others want to engage with.
- Walk around and talk with your hands. Maybe you’re thinking, “I get it. I need to work on this, but how exactly might I actually change this behavior?” One of my secrets is to actually pretend I’m engaging with someone in person. I walk around, I talk with my hands, I let me body talk the way it would if I were in fact face-to-face with someone.
- Capitalize on face-time. If you travel at all with coworkers or to different offices make the most of this time. Plan in advance: share your travel plans with those you work with, schedule time with colleagues, set up lunches and dinners. It will make your work trip more exhausting but think of all the energy you save while not working in an office regularly!
- Make real talk. I hate small talk. I especially hate small talk for the first 5 minutes of a 30 minute call when I have a busy day. What don’t I hate? Real talk for the first few minutes of a call even when I have a busy day. Why? Because I believe that being part of a social society, a team, a company, a working relationship requires asking questions and getting to know someone over time. Don’t spend 20 minutes talking about your weekends but do put in effort to slowly get to know those you work with, over time this will build up to a relationship.
- Suck it up. Maybe this concept is exhausting to you. Maybe you actually do not care about your coworkers. My response to that is simple: suck it up. You’re on a team–or at least engage with others daily, you’re a member of a social society, you need to care about this stuff, and if you just don’t care you need to suck it up a few times a day or week.
All relationships require effort. Just because you share a cube wall with someone doesn’t mean you’ll be best friends and just because you work 1,000 miles away from someone doesn’t mean you can’t be close. Each requires effort.
What ways have you found to help form relationships while working from home? Share in the comments below.