How to Build Strong Connections While Working Remotely

A woman with headphones works at a laptop in front of a big window

How do we build strong relationships in a remote working situation?

Working from home has helped many of us achieve better work-life balance. Without long, stressful commutes or noisy office distractions to contend with, working remotely has allowed us to be more productive and less stressed out. 

But remote working does come with its own unique set of challenges. Things like networking and forming connections with coworkers aren’t as clear cut when you’re working behind a screen. And it’s essential that we form those strong connections so that we can thrive and feel a sense of belonging in the workplace.  

Here are other challenges you might face when working remotely:

  • Having productive meetings. How do you ensure that everyone is focused on the meeting when you’re not in the same room or time zone? And how do you encourage discussion and debate without it becoming a free for all?
  • Collaborating. How do you brainstorm and promote the spirit of collaboration when everyone is based in a different location?
  • Managing your manager. How do you get your manager to notice you when you’re not working face-to-face? 

The good news is that your professional development and relationships don’t have to suffer just because you’re working from home. Below, we share practical and creative ways to form connections with coworkers and make your work stand out in a remote working environment.

Do your homework before online meetings 

From technical difficulties to trying to manage all the different Zoom squares, it’s easy for remote meetings to go off the rails.  

You can have better meetings by doing your homework before the meeting even takes place.

If you’re the meeting host

Distribute the agenda and meeting documents beforehand. Circulate key documents in a timely manner so that everyone can come prepared and hit the ground running. Ask participants to submit questions in advance using tools like Slido and Easy Retro

Host livestream and asynchronous meetings. You’ll also want to consider hosting a mix of livestream and asynchronous meetings. Live meetings are great for when you want to brainstorm and capture the spirit of an in person meeting, while asynchronous meetings are ideal for project updates and for colleagues based in different time zones. To run an asynchronous meeting, you can pre-record a video or “hold” the meeting on a site like Sharepoint or Trello

If you’re the meeting participant

If you’re a participant, study the agenda and underline or highlight unfamiliar terms, acronyms, jargon, etc. Familiarize yourself, take notes, and own the information by the time you enter the meeting. Doing your homework will also help prepare you for possible discussion points, and contemplate the various questions and concerns that might come up.

With in-person meetings, extroverts and quick thinkers usually have the edge. But with remote meetings, you have the time and breathing room to be more thoughtful about your comments and questions. By doing the prep work up top, you will be ready for having dynamic discussions. 

Be one step ahead of your boss

In an in-person working set-up, you’d have the opportunity to observe and study your manager up close. You’d familiarize yourself with their likes, dislikes, habits, and preferences. And you’d get a very clear idea of their working style. 

In a remote working situation, you don’t have the advantage of seeing your boss in action. That means you have to make the extra effort to observe and understand your boss during one-on-one meetings, email exchanges, and other interactions.

Take note of their emails and communication style. Be aware of what kind of information they are looking for. Do they like emails with succinct bullet points or do they like in-depth background documents? Are they data driven or do they want to know the narrative? Do they like to be updated regularly? Or debriefed at the end of the week?

This will help you better understand how your manager thinks. And knowing how they think will help you be one step ahead of them. You can anticipate their requests before they even have to ask you to do them.

So, for example, if you know that your boss likes data and stats, then give them all the facts and figures before they even ask.  

Or if you know that your boss has a big presentation coming up and likes to be extra prepared, then draft that speech and book a rehearsal with them before they even make the request.

By staying one step ahead of your boss, you will gradually earn their trust and build a stronger connection, which could then lead to bigger opportunities. 

Do your networking online 

Another plus for remote workers? You have a lot more flexibility when it comes to your networking strategy. Your networking is no longer restricted by time zones or locations. You can reach out to anyone you admire. But you do have to make sure that you’re being smart and thoughtful about it. 

  • Personalize your request. Whether you’re reaching out to a leader in your organization or a professional on LinkedIn, make sure that your meeting request is tailored to that specific person. Ask yourself: why do I want to meet with them? Maybe you enjoyed a paper they wrote and you’d love to learn more about their professional journey. Or you’d love to get their insight on how they overcame a particular challenge. Be genuine and people will respond well to that. 
  • Be understanding of their timing. Just because you’re meeting over Zoom doesn’t mean that timing isn’t still a concern. You can propose dates/times but let them know you’re flexible and can meet whenever is best for them. 

Demonstrate your skills 

One of the challenges of a remote working situation is finding organic ways to let your skills shine.

In a traditional office set up, you’d be able to demonstrate your strengths during a meeting or presentation. Eventually, word would spread and your reputation would grow. 

In a remote or hybrid working situation, you may not be able to flex your strengths in person, but you can just as easily show off your skills, and probably even reach more people than you would have in a traditional workplace. 

So how do you show off your skills in a remote working environment? It can be as simple as offering to take something off your boss’s plate or sharing information with colleagues. 

Maybe it’s offering to do research on a project or write a first draft of a speech or hosting a webinar on your area of expertise. 

Your colleagues are busy people and probably have a million different things going on. Offering to take something off their plate or sharing your knowledge will not only endear you to them, but will give you the chance to let your skills shine.

By showing off your skills, you’ll develop your experience, increase your exposure, and strengthen your relationships with others.

Written by JiJi Lee.

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