How to Build Relationships with Coworkers Remotely

The Prepped Team

April 27, 2020

7 minutes

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Currently, remote working is more than merely a trend - it’s become a reality for many employees. Remote working offers the possibility of a better work-life balance, as well as cutting down on the time and cost of commuting to an office or workplace each day. However, one of the downsides to working from home is the lack of face-to-face connection with your coworkers. Here are some tips on how to build relationships with the people you work with when you’re not sharing office space.

Why build relationships with your coworkers?

It’s important to build strong relationships with your coworkers because they’re the ones that really make a difference in your day-to-day work life. People with strong professional relationships have reported feeling more focused and productive in their workplace - even if your workplace constitutes your kitchen table or a home office.

3 things that help build professional trust

1. Credibility

Credibility means your coworkers believe you know what it is you’re talking about, or that you are an expert in your field. When starting out in a new position, you’re likely still learning about your role, the company, and have a ways to go until you master expertise. However, there are other ways you can demonstrate credibility when interacting with coworkers remotely. For example, prepare and ask questions during online team meetings. This shows you’re curious and willing to learn. Alternatively, if an opportunity presents itself to showcase your expertise (perhaps you’re a whiz in Adobe or know more than conversational French), let that knowledge shine in a genuine way.

2. Security

In relation to professional trust, security refers to your coworkers’ sense that they can trust you with information, which won’t be used in an unhelpful manner (such as showing up your coworker in front of your boss over Zoom). When you start working with a new team, one of the best ways to establish security is by practicing active listening. It shows you are focused on what your coworker is saying (rather than formulating a witty response). In fact, active listening is more likely to result in you providing a more thoughtful reply. Which, in turn, strengthens security and credibility.

3. Reliability

Reliability is pretty straightforward. It’s doing what you say you’ll do; it’s following through on your commitments. Reliability is even more important when you are working remotely and are building solid relationships with your colleagues. Examples of demonstrating reliability include being on time (or better, early) to online meetings, be prepared and follow through in a timely manner.

Self-orientation may detract from building professional trust

Self-orientation means you are concerned primarily with yourself, especially your own needs, desires, and interests. An employee who puts their own self ahead of their team means it’s likely your coworkers will struggle to trust you. So, how can you avoid self-orientation, especially when you are working solo? Express appreciation for someone’s time or assistance - either verbally during an online meeting, or simply sending a quick email. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted during online meetings (meaning, no surreptitiously checking your Insta feed while your manager is talking). Especially if you’re part of a remote team, work means work. Save play for later.

Tips for building professional trust

Building professional trust takes work at the best of times. However, if you’re working remotely, it’s even more important that you take a proactive role in establishing a connection with colleagues.

  • If you’re starting in a new role, set up a video call with each team member to introduce yourself. To ease the pressure of making conversation with someone new, set a time limit and suggest a 15-minute call. (You could even go as far as sending them a calendar invite to that effect). Putting a name to a face helps mimic the human connection.
  • If you’re working on building rapport with new colleagues, ask short, open-ended questions. This gives you an opportunity to learn more about them and your team, as a whole.
  • Before you speak to a coworker on the telephone, turn off any distractions and sit down. These simple actions help to give your undivided attention.
  • Actually smile if you’re on a phone call. It may sound phoney, but people can pick up on your positive energy, even if they can’t see your face.
  • Make time to learn about your coworkers outside of their work life. This can be more formal, like setting up a virtual coffee chat, or it can be more informal, where you make small talk before meetings start. Sharing what you did over the weekend, or what you’re binge-watching on Netflix are simple ways to get the conversation going.

When working remotely, it’s important to over-communicate, at least at the beginning when you’re just getting to know everyone. Learn about your working style through our workplace assessment. Introduce yourself to new colleagues with our elevator pitch generator. You can even incorporate some of the skills from your workplace assessment into your elevator pitch.

Sign up for Prepped and get access to the workplace assessment and elevator pitch generator, so that you can confidently present yourself, even in a remote setting.