The pandemic drastically altered the workplace, including a significant shift to working from home. According to a recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, the move to work from home has benefits, such as greater work-life balance. It also has its downsides. Pew reports that “60% say they feel less connected to their co-workers now.” Not only can this be detrimental to the outcome of individual projects, it can impact your professional trajectory by atrophying your network. Don’t allow working from home to stall your career momentum. We have three tips to empower you to forge meaningful relationships with your coworkers—even from a distance.
• Hit your marks. It can be easy for work communication to become austerely pragmatic. Staccato one sentence emails may convey information, but they don’t facilitate connection. Make it a regular practice to include salutations, ask how your coworkers are, and follow-up on recent conversations. Skeptics have long bemoaned the worthlessness of small talk, but chit chat actually serves an important function. Small talk helps us to establish and maintain relationships. Experts in communication theory even have a term for it: phatic communication. Remember that communication can serve both an informational and a relational function.
• Express appreciation. Take time to verbalize your gratitude for your coworkers. This can take many forms. Send an email or handwritten card thanking them for their help on a project. Praise their contribution to your team in a Zoom meeting in front of everyone. No matter how you do it, make sure your appreciation is genuine and specific, otherwise it can come off as rote or pandering.
• Show up. Your coworkers can’t get to know you if you’re not there. Working from home makes it easier to skip the social aspects of work. Take measures not to unplug prematurely. Make a point to attend workplace social functions, such as the monthly happy hour or lunch-and-learn. Engage the banter on your team’s Slack channel. Initiate conversations with your colleagues. Remember that you are not just performing a task; you are investing in a mission with a team.