Building Relationships in a Remote Work Environment

This is the first article in a series in which we will address workplace challenges, particularly those that have intensified with recent events. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

I recently spoke with a colleague who shared an all-too-familiar challenge these days. New to her job, she is working hard to build relationships and navigate a new work environment – all while working remotely. Just getting her head around where to begin can be overwhelming.

It brings up an important question: how do we go about building relationships in the workplace when many of the strategies we used – hallway conversations, meeting over lunch, offsites – are no longer an option?  Each of us is keenly aware that new and better strategies are needed in the world we’re in now.

I learned about a creative approach to networking from my friends at Pathbuilders. It’s the concept of using a “relationship journal” – a place to keep track of relationships you’re building and stay intentional about maintaining them. The idea is simple – keep a small notebook or journal at your desk, and use it to jot down information about people with whom you want to develop connections.  When you meet someone new, write down their name, what they do, a few facts you learned about them, and why you want to stay in touch. As you continue to interact with people, add more information in your journal. What’s most helpful about this approach is the act of writing things down, which means you’re more likely to remember them.

Along with keeping a relationship journal, here are some additional ways to develop relationships remotely:

  1. Go to every meeting with the goal of building connections. Remember that it’s not just about the work at hand.

  2. Arrive at virtual meetings early whenever possible. Spend time interacting with the people on the call. If there are new people (or if you’re the newbie), be the first to initiate introductions.

  3. Keep your camera on and avoid multi-tasking. Maintaining eye contact is one of the most important nonverbal communication methods that builds connection.

  4. Take notes in your relationship journal about each person – common areas of interest, connection to work you’re doing, etc.

  5. Send a follow-up email whenever appropriate, even if it’s simply to say, “I enjoyed meeting you and look forward to working together.”

  6. Look for opportunities to stay connected. Be a resource to others, and whenever you have the chance, share helpful information or a word of encouragement. 

You’ll be amazed how these small steps begin to change the interpersonal dynamics you have with your colleagues.

We all need connection, especially in this environment. It’s tempting to withdraw and even isolate ourselves with the pressures of the day and the added complexity of navigating remotely. Connecting with others requires more effort, but remember how important it is to your success – almost everything that gets done in organizations happens within the context of relationships.

As we say at Quantuvos, “choose to be your best.” Don’t underestimate the value you can bring to your relationships at work.