Dylan TaylorChairman and CEO, Voyager Space Holdings.
In a post-pandemic world, people want to work remotely. A 2021 Owl Labs Survey highlighted how important remote working has become: 91% of respondents said they were just as productive or more productive working from home and 56% were willing to look for a new job if remote working was no longer an option. However, they still agree that the office is the best place to build relationships. According to PwC87% of employees said the office is important for collaboration and relationship building – two instrumental tools for successful teams, both internally and remotely.
No matter where or how we work, relationships remain essential. Taking care of them, especially in a remote environment, requires effort on our part. Here are a few ways to build strong relationships in a remote world.
Be aware about work relationships.
Work relationships were easier to cultivate if we could build a 10 minute walk to get coffee on the day. While losing those 10 minutes may seem small, their absences add up. Soon we lose touch with the people for the Zoom background.
Psychologists suggest that we spend at least six hours a week on maintenance healthy relationships. While work relationships don’t need that level of commitment, we still need to be mindful about building and maintaining relationships. For example, try planning what used to be informal. Have team members set aside time to catch up and chat about binge-worthy shows or their fantasy football teams. Managers should schedule one-on-one check-ins with team members who are not fully focused on work. Further, leaders need to understand that personal connections help to deepen relationships with clients, customers and teams. So in a meeting, for example, the first or last five minutes could be used to ask for updates on everyone’s personal lives.
Other strategies include starting interest groups, such as a virtual book club, or holding after-hours meetings with local team members. On a smaller scale, team members may make an effort to send congratulations or appreciation to colleagues. The more consciously we are about building relationships, the more natural it will become and the better connected our teams will be.
Make yourself available.
As Better Meetings founder Lee Gimpel points out, leaders who once asked, “How do I convince people to turn off their cell phones during meetings?” now ask, “How do I get them to turn on their cameras?” Being available requires more than a green light on Slack. It means being engaged, attentive and involved. Turning on the video camera during meetings helps.
Commitment can help with more than just relationships. Johnny Taylor Jr., president and CEO of the Society of Human Resource Management, said 67% of supervisors are considering it home workers easier to replace than those who work locally. So, being more available can ensure that employees are top-of-mind when new projects or opportunities arise.
Open the virtual office door.
Leaders who say, “My door is always open,” must find new ways to deliver on those promises. In the virtual age, that takes dedication and planning. Managers can hold virtual office hours to speak to team members one-on-one or in small groups. But they should not wait for employees to come to them. Leaders need to take the time to reach out. This creates trust and more consistent communication options.
Team members should apply the same principles by being available during normal working hours and communicating clearly when offline. Now more than ever, co-workers understand the need to carpool or walk the dog, but it’s important to delineate those times.
One more thing: don’t worry about overcommunication. What’s worse for workplace relationships is poor communication. Scheduling regular phone calls to discuss projects, goals, and concerns can help strengthen interpersonal relationships between teams.
Anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher tells us so technology has not changed love. So it shouldn’t change our ability to build strong relationships in an increasingly distant world. With some effort and creativity – and our cameras on – we can create a virtual water cooler that brings us together again and again.
Janice has been with businesskinda for 5 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider businesskinda team, Janice seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.