One of the biggest challenges with remote working is bonding with your coworkers. A lot of work goes into creating team culture when we share the same working space on a day to day basis. Remote working creates additional challenges particularly with building and maintaining relationships. However, many people across the globe have become well practised at this. Whether it’s because of a COVID-19 lockdown, or simply the trend towards greater flexibility in how and where we work - the reality is, we all need to work together to get results. With a bit of thought and planning you can overcome the challenges and build strong relationships with your co-workers. Here are a few tips so that you and your team can thrive when you are working remotely.
1. Be intentional with your communication
You need to plan and purposefully create time to connect - chat about work and life outside of work. The informal conversations that we usually have in a coffee break or in between meetings are important for building relationships. We need to intentionally make time for informal chats - and remember to value them.
Action: Set aside time once a week to check in with your boss and people you work closely with. Plan catch ups once every few weeks with other co-workers.
2. Write well
When you work remotely, most of your communication will be written including informal chat windows. It is essential that you write well in all your communication. With no verbal cues and no body language it is easy for communication to be received in a way that was not intended. Communication can seem blunt, jokes can be missed, many aspects can be misinterpreted. Remember these tips:
1. Consider adding emojis or other written cues (like “sarcasm”) that show you’re kidding around
2. Make sure you’re “softening” your message, even when you aren’t bringing up a difficult topic. It’s easy for the overall tone to come across as borderline unfriendly if we are too rushed
3. Always make an effort to be personable and friendly
3. Know when it’s time to talk
Avoid the pitfall of getting caught up in back and forth conversations. It’s easy for things to bounce back and forth in a slack or teams chat. As soon as things start to get confused or heated, it’s time to pick up the phone, or start a video chat to clear up any confusion or frustrations. Remember, we are all humans and it’s very likely that if you were in the same room, then you would see the human value of the person you are communicating with. Be quick to say sorry for any confusion.
4. Switch to video
Video is great for helping to build strong relationships when you are working remotely. 80% of our communication is through body language and tone. All of this gets lost when we chat over text. Not every occasion needs a video call, but the advantage is that they will help you to learn more about your colleagues as people. They can take a bit to get used to, but they are a great way to have a laugh, and overcome many of the difficulties of working remotely.
5. Make time to chat, laugh and celebrate
Make sure you take time to connect. This may be a simple icebreaker (highlights, lowlights, favourite food, most loved place to travel etc) at the beginning of the team meeting, online after work drinks, some casual conversation about hobbies, families and celebrations. Use technology to create space for break-out rooms and smaller group chats to help team members in different teams to connect even when working remotely. Over time, you’ll find that small regular conversations help create bonds with your coworkers.
Working remotely can make communication difficult. However, if you can be intentional with your communication then you can overcome many of these challenges. Remember, it’s important to connect with your co-workers as people. This way you will all have greater understanding and empathy for each other even when you are not working together in the same office. After all we are all on the same team and need each other to achieve the best results.