Learn about why you should and how you can build and maintain connections with coworkers from a distance.
- When you have a long-distance work relationship, it can be tempting to view those that you work with in a transactional manner. What I mean is that rather than seeing other people as human beings with a unique personality, you begin to view them as names with email addresses, human vending machines that if you put in a certain input, you get a certain result back. This mindset is almost counterintuitively unproductive. It may be helpful to be quick and get to the point for lots of small tasks.
However, when it comes time to collaborate with others or to get their buy-in for your ideas, if you haven't taken just a little bit of time to build and maintain a relationship with them, you'll likely find the communication to be slow and difficult. You may even find yourselves at odds with each other because of an underlying lack of respect. On the other hand, when you take time to build relationships, collaboration becomes more interesting, more insightful, and more productive.
How can you build professional relationships if you're working from home and other people are miles away from you? Here are a few tips that I've used and seen other use successfully. First, be aware of the obvious things. By the obvious things I mean things like your coworkers' birthdays, anniversaries, and other significant life events such as the birth of a child. I'd recommend that you get this information and put it into your calendar.
Create a reminder for yourself maybe a day or two before the event that your coworker has an important date upcoming. When that reminder pops up, ask yourself if there's something nice that you can do about it. I have employees that work a great distance from me. One thing that I like to do is, on their birthday, send them some silly meme with a picture like, "Your birthday is Chuck Norris approved," but then also send them a gift, something that would be meaningful to them.
Honestly, it's not much, and perhaps I could make more of an effort, but at least it's something. When you compare that to the interactions that most other people have in their life, you're likely doing something very nice and out of the ordinary. A second tip related to this is be aware of cultural or national holidays. If you work with people who are of a different nationality or religion, it might not hurt to look up what holidays they celebrate or to even ask them about them to learn about them.
In this way you can be sensitive to their needs for a little time off, and at the very least just recognize the holiday and wish them a happy Canada Day or whatever that's applicable to them. Last, this is something I talk about in my course on building your professional network, and that is look for loose bricks. A loose brick is a personal hobby or interest that allows you to move past the sterile, professional wall and get to know someone personally.
In your virtual meetings with coworkers, try to take a little bit of time to get to know them personally. What are their hobbies? What are the things that they're interested in? What's their family like? While you want to maintain a professional relationship with people, I believe that there's power in adding an aspect to it where you're aware of what they are interested in and try to do something for them around that. For instance, if I have a coworker that's interested in antique cars, if I come across an article online about cars, I could send that to them and share that with them.
Or if I was a manager and even had a little budget to do something nice for those I supervise, I could send a book about antique cars to that person. These little gestures don't take a lot of time, and typically not a lot of money, but when working from home and seeking to build a long-distance professional relationship with coworkers, these things make an enormous difference. People do remember them. When you make even the smallest effort, you'll find that the times you come together to work to create things will go more smoothly.
You can even find you develop a new friendship, even if it's with someone many miles away.
- Creating a productive environment
- Creating a balanced schedule
- Using virtual meetings
- Staying responsive
- Balancing roles as a parent, caregiver, and professional
- Managing interruptions and emergencies at home