Starting a new job is always intimidating, and working from home can make the transition more difficult.
As an extrovert, I usually look forward to making work friends who can provide energy, insight, and support in the office. But I started working for Insider remotely, and I’ve found that it’s harder to make those connections when there’s a computer screen separating me from my coworkers.
Working from home rules out any random office interactions, so it’s on me and my colleagues to schedule time for intentional connection.
Since remote work will be a long-term reality for many people, it’s important to adapt to building relationships with coworkers you don’t see in person every day.
Here are some tips for getting to know your coworkers when you start a new job remotely.
Set up virtual ‘coffees’ to meet your coworkers one-on-one
Most companies will treat their new hires to coffee or lunch during their first couple weeks on the job, which also offers an opportunity for newcomers to get to know their teams.
But while you probably won’t be frequenting coffee shops anytime soon, you can still arrange virtual “coffees” to chat with your coworkers. Setting up these one-on-ones early is a great way to introduce yourself to team members outside of the confines of a group meeting.
If you find you click with someone, don’t be a stranger. Suggest making coffee a monthly or bi-weekly occasion. Chances are your coworker will be happy to break up their day and gain a new work friend.
Even if you’re not starting a new job, a shift to remote work means you can get to know people you wouldn’t normally see in the office. Anyone can take the opportunity to connect with people from other teams or locations while we’re all in the same virtual workspace.
Strike a balance between professionalism and friendly conversation
It’s important to remember that these conversations aren’t interviews. You already got the job, so it’s OK to loosen up a bit and focus on getting to know your coworkers as people.
Kathy Caprino, a career and a leadership coach who has been building relationships with remote coworkers and clients for years, recommended letting your curiosity guide the conversation.
“Really, it’s about interest and curiosity,” Caprino said. “What are the things you love doing, what is a challenge for you — just get to know them first.”
Beyond those get-to-know-you questions, Caprino suggested asking coworkers with whom you’ll be working closely, “What is it I could do to make your life easiest?”
Although these conversations shouldn’t feel like formal interviews, make sure to listen attentively and write down any lessons you learn so you can implement them later.
If you feel comfortable, share personal tidbits that could become points of connection
Caprino said it’s up to your manager to set the tone for sharing personal information, but once that door is open, you should reciprocate by telling your coworkers who you are outside of work.
“If you feel comfortable, if it’s an ecosystem that does that, drop the tidbit,” Caprino said. “I don’t mean the most personal thing in the world, just something that you’re comfortable sharing that is really about you.”
For instance, if you’ve picked up a new hobby or you’re planning a vacation, mention it next time you’re chatting with a coworker. “Open the door for being real,” Caprino said.
You should also pick up on any tidbits your coworkers drop and try to ask questions when you notice a possible point of connection.
If your workplace uses Slack or a similar platform to communicate, you may be able to find these commonalities by joining channels related to your interests. I’m personally a big fan of #dogs and #cats, as well as our monthly book club.
“We’re going to have to find tools to show our realness,” Caprino said. “I think that’s what’s missing when we do things remotely.”
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