Remote Work Relationships

Seven Ways to Build Relationships While Working Remotely

4 min read
Lynsey May Sutherland
Lynsey Sutherland

The upsides to remote working can be huge, but it makes some areas a little harder to handle too. 

While hybrid or remote working offers great flexibility and opportunities for improving work-life balance, it can also impact the working relationship and have the unwanted effect of making team members feel isolated. 

It doesn’t have to be that way if you’re willing to put in a little work.  

What is a work relationship?

A work relationship is a connection forged between colleagues in the workplace. 

There is a whole spectrum of working relationships, and they naturally change depending on the dynamic between the people involved. 

For example, the relationship between two people working the same role will differ from that between an intern and a CEO.

Why building relationships at work is important

Good work relationships can make everyday experiences more fulfilling, help employees feel confident and improve communication and productivity. 

The desire for good relationships at work is strong among employees. The Lunch Break Bonding survey from Just Eat found that 62% would like a friendlier work atmosphere. 

You will be forgiven for thinking that close friendships may be a distraction or an issue in the workplace, but the benefits far outweigh any such worries. 

The National Business Research Institution found that employee satisfaction skyrockets nearly 50% when a worker develops a close relationship, and having a best friend at work also boosts employee engagement.

What makes a good work relationship?

Sometimes working relationships blossom into friendship, sometimes they don’t, and that’s fine. Not every work relationship has to be close, but as long as relationships are good-natured, mutually respectful and caring, they can have big benefits. 

How to build and maintain meaningful relationships in a remote team

The move towards hybrid and remote teams has changed the playing field when creating those all-important workplace relationships. Microsoft’s Work Trend Index found that the shift to remote work shrunk people’s networks and that while one-on-one chats increased, the number of people posting in team chats diminished. 

Dealing with the switch doesn’t have to be a challenge, but it does require a change in mindset. Here are some ways to support meaningful relationships when your employees work remotely. 

1. Make the effort

The first step is often the hardest, and once you start making connections and encouraging others to do the same, the rest tends to follow. 

That’s why it’s important to recognise that things aren’t how they were when everyone shared the same space and had plenty of casual opportunities to chat. Now a little more initial effort is needed.

2. Communicate well

To make the most of that little bit of extra effort, you want to know that your words are having the best possible impact. 

Learning how to communicate effectively at work allows you to make the most of every interaction. Matching your communication style to the person you’re talking to is very helpful for improving relationships. 

3. Bring a positive attitude

No job is sunshine and roses all the time. There may be days or weeks when things feel like they are going wrong or the pressure is high.

It’s fine to vent those feelings and talk through problems constructively – that’s how you can foster real honesty and trust in the workplace – but if exchanges are always focused on negative feedback or mutual moaning, the relationships will not be fruitful. 

4. Run team-building activities 

One of the best ways to help employees build relationships with each other is to give them a chance to talk about things that aren’t completely work-focused. 

The value of team-building activities has long been known; the same is true even if you work from home. Get some inspiration in our guide to remote team-building activities

5. Create personal user manuals

Make it easy for everyone to know how to approach and support their colleagues by encouraging everyone to create their personal user manual. 

This short and simple document shares a few key insights about what makes you tick. For example, it might have things like the time of day you’re most open to chatting or the best way to get in touch with you, whether that’s over email, chat or phone. 

6. Dedicate space for informal chats

Talking about work-related things can be part of forming good work relationships, but it shouldn’t be the only thing. 

Making a dedicated space and time to allow people to chat about this will allow deeper connections to form. Remote coffee mornings, randomised meet-ups (there’s a Slack App called Donut which can help with this), or online chat threads about favourite books and films are all good places to start. 

Donut Slack App Preview

7. Promote recognition throughout teams

One of the best ways to help relationships form is to encourage a space where peers can recognise each other’s successes. 

Peer-to-peer recognition is great for building wellbeing and satisfaction and offers a good springboard for mutual respect and friendships. 

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Mo is an employee recognition and engagement platform that can help leaders improve collaboration and morale, reduce employee churn and drive change. 

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