Building strong relationships is about creating connections between people. With remote work, that connection becomes even more important. Working on the computer all day, it’s easy to forget that behind the screen is another person, not just a string of emails and Slack messages.
To build stronger workplace relationships, the effort has to be intentional. Here are four things to focus on:
Communication is key.
Open communication is one of the easiest ways to build strong relationships in the workplace. Open communication ensures that everyone has a chance to share their opinions, ideas, complaints, questions, and feedback. The key is to make frequent and robust communication simply a part of the way you do business.
For managers and leaders, share relevant company updates with employees and provide them with frequent feedback. This ensures they have all the information they need to do their jobs at all times and aren’t kept in the dark. Feedback helps foster a positive leader-employee relationship by showing that the leader is invested in each employee’s growth and development.
For teams, communication can be the make or break factor in relationship building. Without open communication, things fall through the cracks, people work in silos, and it can feel like everyone is just working for themselves instead of working as a cohesive unit. Leaders need to establish communication norms, select the right channels (such as Slack, email, or Zoom) and teach teams how to use them effectively.
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Keep an open mind.
To build strong relationships you have to keep an open mind. Leslie Wardman, Founder of Ambiance Matchmaking, gives great advice on this topic that isn’t just for romantic relationships, “You don’t want to sacrifice or compromise what you believe in, but you also shouldn’t be judgmental. Be open-minded and stay true to yourself.” Wardman further explains that you need know your own boundaries, be aware of your biases, and stay self-aware. If you know when you might be tempted to jump to conclusions, it’s easier to mitigate initial judgmental thoughts and remind yourself to keep an open mind.
Connect outside of the workplace.
Building relationships actually makes work easier. When you form a personal connection with your colleagues, there’s less tension and friction and more feelings of camaraderie and support.
If the time you spend with your colleagues is 100% focused on work, you won’t form strong bonds. With remote work, this becomes even more challenging as there aren’t breaks around the water cooler that naturally allow for non-work conversation to flow. Those breaks need to come in the form of open Zoom rooms where people can pop in to chat, or Slack channels dedicated to non-working topics.
When offices re-open and it’s safe to gather in groups again, after work happy hours, group volunteer projects, and holiday parties are easy ways to help strengthen team bonds. Seeing colleagues and managers outside of the office helps remind us that we’re more than just our work titles and jobs.
Follow through on commitments.
Trust is the cornerstone of building a solid relationship, and one surefire way to break that trust is by not honoring your commitments. Whether that commitment is completing a project that you’re working on by yourself by a set deadline or collaborating as part of a team, the consequences are the same – a breakdown in trust. Even the project that was being worked on solo was part of something larger, and by not completing your piece of the work on time, it impacts everyone else doing their part. Honoring your commitments and meeting deadlines helps to show that you’re trustworthy and a team player.
Situations will arise where you simply can’t meet the deadline, but as long as you handle the situation correctly and don’t make a habit of it, that’s alright. As soon as you know that you won’t be able to complete your work on time, let your supervisor and your teammates know. This keeps everyone on the same page, and shows that you’re respectful of the other people working on the project.