Building relationships at work remotely

For many of us, the world of work has changed a great deal since the pandemic. Some of these changes have been welcome and many of us will never work in the same way again. The biggest change for many has been the switch to remote working, something we predict will become a lot more commonplace when restrictions lift. 

Some of us have risen to the challenge, embracing and loving this new way of working, others have found it difficult. An area almost all who have made the switch have had to think about more is our working relationships. How can we build and maintain positive relationships when we’re not in the same space together? First of all, let’s look at why this is an area we should be mindful of.

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Why is having positive relationships at work important?

It’s estimated that we spend around a third of our lives at work. Many of us speak to our work colleagues more regularly than some friends or family members. A huge part of enjoying the day-to-day when it comes to work is having smooth relationships with others. 

When we get on with the people we work with, we feel more confident in speaking up and sharing ideas and opinions. We collaborate more easily and are able to innovate to move the company forward. Overall morale is improved and we are often more productive. We may even notice more career opportunities opening up because of these positive relationships.

What does it take to build positive relationships at work?

Creating harmonious relationships at work takes a certain amount of effort, especially when you’re working remotely. The foundations you should be thinking about include respect, trust, understanding, self-awareness and inclusion.

Respect needs to work both ways, where you respect your colleagues and they respect you. Honesty and open communication are tools to reach for here – this is how you’ll foster respect. In a similar vein, trust is integral. You need to feel safe speaking to others and you need to be trusted by others. Staying true to your word and forging deeper connections can help here.

Understanding your colleagues is a factor often forgotten. How well do you understand your colleagues’ roles? How well do you understand them as people? Consider how you can get to know them and, therefore, understand them better. Self-awareness is key too. When we’re aware of our own habits and ways of working, we can communicate this with others.

Finally, inclusion is about ensuring everyone is included and considered at work. This could mean recognising cultural differences and accessibility in your workplace.  

How to build relationships at work remotely 

Working remotely does put up certain blocks when it comes to communication. We don’t get to interpret body language as easily, small talk and chance encounters are reduced and it can be easy to lose sight of the human behind the words on your screen. 

With a little intention and effort, however, relationships can thrive remotely. Here are some suggestions to try:

Discuss the best methods of communication with your team

If you haven’t done this already, we’d highly recommend bringing the team together virtually for a discussion about how you communicate best. This will look different for everyone but it may include a weekly video call, a daily catch-up on an instant messaging platform or regular emails. There may be different preferences within the team, so you may not please everyone, but finding some sort of blueprint for maintaining consistent communication is key.

Take a personality test and share results

This can be a fun way to get to know your colleagues and their tendencies. It can bring about greater self-awareness for you and help you understand your team better.

We recommend 16 personalities, a free online test that shares insightful information about how each personality type works. You may also find the four tendencies quiz by Gretchen Rubin helpful, this offers an insight into how you and your team are motivated. 

Set and communicate boundaries

Workplace boundaries can quickly slip when working from home so now is a great time to reinforce some healthy boundaries and communicate them with your team. This could involve reminding the team to log off at a certain time, prompting colleagues to take breaks and ensuring everyone knows when and how you are contactable. 

Ask questions

This can help with improving your understanding of others in the company. If you’re not sure what their role involves, don’t hesitate to ask questions or organise a chat to learn more. This extends further than the workplace too; ask questions about how people are doing, what hobbies they enjoy and foster relationships with people as a whole. 

Say thank you

As we mentioned earlier, when we don’t see each other’s faces as often it can be easy to lose connection with their humanness. One tip to help with this is to say thank you more.

Recognising when someone’s gone out of their way to help you and made your day a little easier with a simple message of thanks can be a game-changer. If you have a way to recognise colleagues company-wide, for example, employee of the month, be sure to keep this up remotely. 

Celebrate milestones

This is a great way to boost morale and remind yourselves of the wider purpose at your company. Celebrate achievements and milestones, and get creative with how you celebrate. Perhaps you could encourage managers to send out small tokens of appreciation or offer an early finish one day.

Don’t forget to celebrate personal milestones too, like birthdays and work anniversaries. This is another way to foster company culture and bring people together.

Be intentional about non-work related chat

When you work remotely, often non-work discussions take a backseat. This can stunt relationships and even lead to a sense of isolation. Try to bring informal discussions into meetings more often, perhaps by starting meetings with a five-minute catch up on how people are doing. You could also create a dedicated time slot for people to come together to chat about non-work related topics.

This all helps you get to know your colleagues and, importantly, check in with people’s mental well-being.

Remember, as humans we are social beings and crave connection. Building relationships at work takes time and dedication, but the results are so, so worth it. If this is something you’re finding difficult either personally or as a team, you may find it helpful to enlist outside support.

A coach who specialises in relationships and workplace culture could help you with tailored advice that fits better with your company. Use our search tool to find a coach today.

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Written by Kat Nicholls
Kat is a Senior Writer for Life Coach Directory and Happiful magazine.
Written by Kat Nicholls
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