How to Build Professional Relationships while Working Remotely
According to Oxford Languages, remote is defined as “being situated far from the main centers of population; distant.” Before March 2020, working outside the standard brick-and-mortar office was acceptable for a small percentage of the workforce. However, entering 2022, flexible work arrangements are the norm. The future of work doesn’t necessarily include a full-time return to the office. Although this “distance” associated with remote work can feel like a barrier, that does not mean employees are distant from the corporate mission, vision, and values.
We’ve talked about how to identify that a company is a great place to work and how to prepare for your interview. But, now you’ve landed the job and want to flourish in this next step of your career. So, how do you build meaningful relationships as a hybrid or remote employee outside a traditional office environment?
Immerse Yourself in Onboarding
The first way to gain insights is by immersing yourself in the company culture, starting with onboarding. Onboarding is the process of integrating new employees into an organization. It frequently includes introducing company culture, training, and setting the groundwork for your role and responsibilities within the department. The goal of onboarding is to provide the new employee with the necessary resources to feel confident and be successful in their role. Essentially, onboarding is the first step to building a solid, long-term relationship.
As a new employee, jumping into the onboarding process with both feet is key to building relationships with team members while working from home. It can be easy to forget that you are part of a team, so take every opportunity to learn how each team member contributes to the group. Read organizational charts and put faces and names to departments. You can also use those first few weeks to reach out beyond your immediate team to those who will regularly assist you, including HR and IT departments. Making connections at the onset will set you up for future success, allow you to network with people outside of your department, and help you better understand the resources available.
Fully participating in the onboarding process sets a solid foundation and helps new hires understand colleagues’ roles and build a roadmap for asking questions and finding answers. Ultimately, onboarding is key to building strong professional relationships for remote workers.
Make Time for Face-to-Face Time
It is one thing to pass by your colleague’s office and see they are on the phone or available for a chat, but what is the expectation when it comes to virtual interaction? It is easy to get absorbed in a task, lose track of time, and not connect with someone face-to-face (even virtually) for hours. While spurts of productivity are necessary, there are many ways to let your coworkers know that you are available for a quick question or brainstorming session.
Often, remote teams juggle team members with different time zones and varying schedules, but creating an overlap in working hours can help combat this. Make a plan to connect with team members who have different schedules to ensure you are in sync and maximizing resources. Similarly, whenever possible, prioritize video calls and phone calls over email. The fluidity of a conversation encourages dialogue and aids collaboration; conversely, the tone of voice of an email is open for interpretation. By connecting with team members over the phone or face-to-face, you can more quickly discuss complex concepts to understand your duties and increase productivity.
Another critical aspect of maintaining professional relationships while working outside an office is regularly connecting face-to-face (virtually or in-person) with your boss. Scheduling a weekly or biweekly touch base with your boss helps keep small projects moving forward and allows time to discuss long-term goals and initiatives. Although challenging for some, prioritizing face-to-face meetings is key to maintaining professional relationships, working as a team, and tracking long-term career development while working remotely.
Whether a summer intern tackling new tasks or an industry expert working in a new management structure, joining a company as a remote or hybrid employee requires a willingness to learn with a dash of vulnerability.
Building trust at the start of any new relationship is essential, especially for new hires trying to connect with their coworkers in remote positions. Team members need to prioritize openness to create a collaborative and safe environment. By asking questions, you are showing a willingness to learn and signaling to your colleagues and coworkers that they can ask you questions, too.
Another way to expand professional relationships while working remotely is to participate in employee resource groups (ERGs) and events that allow for discussions regarding topics that fall outside of daily projects. ERGs are voluntary, employee-led groups that aim to create an inclusive and diverse work environment and make employees feel heard and valued. They foster open discussion to provide both personal and career development. By engaging in all the forums your new company provides, you uncover commonalities outside your department and actively network.
In addition to participating in ERG events, attending a “lunch and learn” on an unfamiliar topic is a great way to expand your professional network. Video conferencing tools with chat or raise-a-hand features encourage all team members to ask questions and participate. Additionally, these tools help more introverted team members participate when they may not wish to speak up in a packed conference room. Although you may not have a specific question for the presenter during the event itself, you can always reach out afterward. Letting the organizer know you benefitted from the session is another great way to build and maintain professional relationships in a remote working environment.
Join Our Professional Network
Much like any transition, starting a new job is an adjustment. Still, there are many ways to connect and build strong professional relationships when working remotely. You can build a solid foundation for success by immersing yourself in the onboarding process. By creating space in your calendar for face-to-face collaboration, you prioritize the fluidity of in-person collaborative conversations. And you can build a network and maintain professional relationships, all from your home office, by asking questions and participating in companywide events.
Are you interested in building your professional network while working remotely? We’re hiring! Apply to our open positions.