4 Simple Ways to Cultivate Healthy Work Relationships While Working from Home
Forming bonds with colleagues at a new workplace can always be a challenge. Now try to build relationships while working remotely and it becomes 10 times more challenging. Even if you had known your coworkers before going remote, it can still be difficult to maintain those relationships in this new model.
Nevertheless, healthy relationships in the workplace are crucial for every company, contributing to successful cooperation within teams, as well as employees’ general satisfaction and mental well-being.
In this article, we will discuss work relationships, delving into detail about what makes them healthy, tell you why it’s important to work on those bonds and give you some practical tips to implement among your remote team today!
What is a work relationship?
Let’s start by defining what a work relationship is. Simply put, it consists of the bonds you form with the people you work with, e.g. your colleagues, team members, managers and CEOs. The definition can also include your relationships with customers, suppliers and investors.
The nature of those relationships will vary: for example, you are more likely to develop stronger bonds with your team members, compared to other people who work for the same company. That happens naturally, as those are the people with whom you spend the most time.
We may differentiate between relationships that are personal vs those that are strictly professional. The latter is the kind of relationship you’re likely to have with your boss. However, the two types can overlap. The relationship you have with your teammates is professional, but some of them can become your close colleagues and you may even want to spend some time together with them outside of work.
A lot will also depend on your general company culture. Each company has its own culture that will set the tone for employee relations. Some workplaces will insist on a high degree of formality, while others will be much more informal. It’s something everyone at the company should be familiar with; however, if you have any doubts about what exactly constitutes your company culture, it would be a good idea to reach out to an HR representative.
Why is building relationships at work important?
Like all relationships, work relationships take time and effort. But why should you want to cultivate them in the first place?
Well, for starters – business is relationships and having good people skills is always an asset. By forming bonds with different individuals, you grow your network and increase your chances for new business opportunities. However, it’s not just about advancing your career, but also about improving overall your work satisfaction.
If you’re getting a stomach ache on a Sunday evening just thinking about having to go to work the next day, chances are that the relationships at your workplace need some mending. We spend so much of our time at work – why not make it at least a little bit more pleasant for ourselves?
Having healthy work relationships creates a happier workplace and boosts employee morale and productivity. People who simply feel good in each other’s company are more engaged and creative, work more effectively as a team and get better results.
What makes a good work relationship?
The foundation of a healthy work relationship – or in fact any type of relationship – is good communication which should be honest, respectful and based on mutual understanding.
Once you lay this groundwork, you will be able to build trust. This means not only feeling safe enough to share a little bit more of yourself but also being reliable and keeping your commitments. When you have this sense of safety with another person, you can feel comfortable with one another.
Another key factor is mutual support: feeling as if you’ve got each other’s backs and are cheering each other on. This ties in with appreciation: recognising and celebrating each other’s successes and expressing gratitude.
How to build and maintain effective working relationships?
Ideally, you should be able to feel some level of safety with everyone you work with and feel as if you know at least a little bit about them. Obviously, some relationships are going to be more important than others, such as the ones you have with the members of your team or your direct managers.
In this part of the article, we touch upon the key factors that go into building and maintaining healthy relationships at work. We also share some tips on how to go about fostering these relationships while working from home (including insights from our very own remote team).
1. Make the effort
As already mentioned, relationships don’t just build themselves overnight, they take time and effort to develop. They are the sum of the small interactions you have every day. So be patient – your best friend was also a stranger at some point, remember? At the same time, it doesn’t mean you should just wait and do nothing. Instead, be intentional about those interactions. Learn about your teammates and let them get to know you!
You’re all probably running on busy schedules and it may be hard to set aside additional time to socialise. But it doesn’t have to be super time-consuming! Just check in with your teammates to see how they’re doing. Ask about the projects they’re working on, but also make the space for some chitchat. However, it’s important to be consistent. There’s no chance to develop a strong bond if you only interact once every few months.
Also, try to show up for extra activities, even if they happen after work and you have to sacrifice a little bit of your free time. Whether it’s an office party, celebrating someone’s birthday or just grabbing a few drinks together, it’s a great excuse to socialise and get to know each other better!
In a physical workplace, you’d probably have more occasions for spontaneous exchanges or group activities. You’d do coffee breaks together, hang out in the common area or stop by each other’s desks. However, it’s still possible in a remote environment, you just have to find new ways to have meaningful interactions that can slowly turn into the building blocks of a working relationship.
Making the effort while working from home
Messaging people on Slack (or whichever app your company uses for day-to-day communication) is the remote equivalent of starting a friendly conversation at the office. You can even establish some rituals! The other day, people at Tagvenue were sharing pics of their home office setups on a Slack channel! We also have an entire channel dedicated to book recommendations.
If you add Donut to Slack, it will pretty much make the effort for you. It can post random prompts in a dedicated channel to spark up conversations and get everyone to share interesting bits of info about themselves. It will also pair up people who don’t normally interact with one another and encourage them to have virtual coffee or lunch together. Talking to employees from different departments is an excellent way to broaden your social network and gradually build a stronger community across the company.
You can schedule casual hangouts or maybe take a few minutes of your regular meetings to simply check in and talk about what’s going on in each other’s lives, maybe share some book and TV shows recommendations, etc.
Virtual one-on-ones are an excellent way to establish a rapport between employees and managers. They should be recurring meetings, taking place every 2 to 4 weeks. It is not only the time for giving updates, discussing progress and providing two-way feedback, but the commitment to these regular face-to-face interactions also helps build trust and strengthen the relationship.
If you’re looking for conversation starters, use social media. Connect with your coworkers on LinkedIn and learn a little bit about their backgrounds. You may find out that you have something in common and it will give you a reason to drop them a DM! Reacting to each other’s posts is also a low-effort way of showing interest and friendliness.
Office parties can also still happen, even if your team is fully remote! Virtual gatherings and celebrations can be just as fun, and they’re a great way to get closer to your colleagues. We’ll talk more about that later on in this article when we get to the section on team building activities.
Tip from Tagvenue’s team: According to our team, having daily stand-ups really helps with maintaining good relationships. It’s not just the time to discuss everyone’s progress, but also a chance to ask how they’re doing and have a small, casual chat. Each day starts with a dose of positivity and motivation, plus everyone gets to learn just a little bit more about each other. We also hold weekly Town Hall meetings, which give us the chance to catch up with everyone at the company, learn what each team is currently working on and ask questions.
2. Communicate well
When you have good relationships with your coworkers, it becomes easier to voice opinions, give feedback, bounce ideas off of each other or even handle conflicts. To be able to do that, you have to communicate well. But what does it mean?
It starts with something as simple as being polite and respectful towards others, regardless of the position they occupy in the company hierarchy.
Practice active listening: pay attention to what the other person is saying and ask questions!
Be honest and transparent in your communication. Don’t say anything about a person that you wouldn’t say to their face. Gossipping won’t get you anywhere, so make sure you handle any issues professionally. If you have some negative feedback to give, discuss that with the person in question in private.
Build trust. You may feel vulnerable when you open up to your coworker, but some vulnerability is necessary to build a healthy relationship. Apart from that, let your coworkers know that they can rely on you: this also means knowing your responsibilities and being able to follow up on them. If you can’t keep your commitments, don’t try to hide it or place the blame on someone or something else. Have an honest talk, instead. Owning up to your mistakes is also key.
Communicating while working from home
In a remote setup, it’s vital to use technology that supports easy communication and learn how to make the most of it. However, because everyone is separated by their own screen, the natural flow of communication may get a little bit disrupted.
Be extra clear in your written communication. Remember that the other side has to depend on the words only – they have no access to gestures and body language. Unless you use emoji, which serve as the equivalent of gestures in informal writing. Be mindful of the tone of your message, keeping in mind the person you’re addressing.
When it comes to emails, it’s essential to communicate effectively at work. However, the rules might vary when you’re communicating with a co-worker or with your director. Elements like the subject line and the length of the email are important when crafting emails. For some extra help, check out the tips on how to introduce people over email here.
We all deal with technical difficulties from time to time, like a lost connection, etc. If your screen froze during a meeting and you didn’t quite catch what someone was saying, don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat.
Tip from Tagvenue’s team: What our team really values is our friendly and open culture. Everyone is welcome to ask questions, knowing that they won’t be ridiculed, but get the help and answers they seek. We use Slack for our daily communication, which helps us stay connected even though we’re working from different corners of the world. During meetings, we keep our cameras on, because we genuinely like to see each other and value non-verbal communication.
3. Keep a positive attitude
This may sound ridiculously simple and cliched, but a smile can really go a long way! Everyone likes being around people who radiate positive energy. Sure, it is possible to bond over negativity, but why waste time on that when you could make each other feel good instead?
Everyone thrives in an atmosphere of mutual support, where people help each other grow and push each other to be the better versions of themselves. Instead of clipping each other’s wings, inspire and motivate one another!
Show appreciation. Everyone likes to feel valued for what they’re contributing, which is why giving positive feedback is super important. Recognise the good work of your colleagues and praise them for their efforts.
Spreading positivity while working from home
You can easily spread the positive vibes even from afar! Why not start some rituals with your fellow coworkers? It can be something super simple, like checking in with your team every morning and wishing everyone a good day. You can also learn what your colleagues are working on and cheer them on. These gestures don’t take much effort but can sometimes be enough to make someone’s day a little brighter and let them know they’re not alone. Learn more about how to build a positive work environment here.
Tip from Tagvenue’s team: The team at Tagvenue is known for their enthusiasm. We have the tradition of always giving a warm welcome to newcomers. They are introduced via a public Slack channel (or can take the floor and do their own intro!), where they get a ton of positive reactions. It’s an awesome way to make them feel like they belong right from the start. We also use Slack to celebrate successes (very often with memes) or talk about inspiring books and articles.
4. Try some team building activities
A great way to foster stronger bonds with your colleagues is to engage in fun team building activities. Playing some games that require teamwork can help you improve your communication skills, discover your strengths and get closer to one another.
In a physical workplace, you’d probably have more occasions to participate in such activities. There’d be office parties or things like pizza and beer after work. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them if you’re working remotely!
Some companies may organise offline get-togethers with the entire team every once in a while. This is an awesome time for employees to socialise in real life and do something fun together. However, if that is not possible, there are still excellent ways to do some team building without leaving the house!
Connecting with your team while working from home
Here at Tagvenue, we pride ourselves on hosting awesome virtual team building activities, from light-hearted and relaxed games like The Team Quest or Around the World to entertaining and adrenaline-filled challenges like online escape rooms. Why not take the initiative and talk to your managers about picking something that suits your company? Click here to explore our top picks or head over to our article on The 18 Best Virtual Team Building Activities and see if there’s anything you like.
You can also check out our article on online icebreakers, where we list a wide selection of activities that will help you break the ice with your remote colleagues. If you’re looking for something simple to begin with, the article also contains a list of ice breaker questions. You can pick one and start each day by having everyone submit their answers or use them as a fun warm-up before meetings.
Tip from Tagvenue’s team: Our team really enjoys the fact that we’re remote-first, but not remote-only. It’s great to have the option to come down to the office and reconnect with each other in real life, have a delicious breakfast together or relax after work during pizza and beer Fridays. We do our best to organise office parties, where team members who work in different cities on a daily basis can also join. But if that’s not possible, we take our own advice to heart and know how to have fun while staying fully remote!
We hope that by now you’re feeling inspired to work on the relationships with your remote colleagues. Remember to make consistent efforts to have some casual interactions, be mindful of how you communicate with others, stay positive and look for some fun team building activities that you and your team could engage in!
What is a work relationship?
Work relationships are the interpersonal relationships you develop in your workplace: with your coworkers, team members, managers and CEOs. The definition can also include the relations you have with the company’s stakeholders. They can be strictly professional or develop into personal relationships, cultivated both inside and outside of the workplace.
What are the benefits of effective working relationships in a team?
Effective working relationships between team members contribute to an overall better atmosphere and more work satisfaction. If everyone feels comfortable with one another, it’s easier for them to communicate openly, which leads to better cooperation. There’s more space for creativity, as people feel safe enough to suggest new ideas. The team is more productive and generates better results.
How do you build relationships in a remote team?
Building relationships in a remote team can take more effort compared to a physical workplace, mainly because there are fewer opportunities for spontaneous interactions. You have to be more intentional. Check in with your colleagues to see how they’re doing, whether it’s by dropping them a short message or taking a couple of minutes from your daily meeting to have a chitchat. Start some rituals, e.g. sharing book recommendations or photos of your pets via a Slack channel. Take coffee breaks together, where you’ll connect via video call and have a catch-up. And to really break the ice with your remote team, go for some virtual team building activities!
What are the most important things in a working relationship?
The foundations of a working relationship include: good communication, mutual respect, trust and a sense of safety, support, understanding and appreciation. All of these elements must be actively worked on to maintain good relationships with colleagues. Developing strong bonds takes time, so it’s important to be consistent.
What can harm working relationships?
One of the definite don’ts in a healthy work relationship is gossiping. A good rule of thumb is: if you can’t say it to their face, don’t say it at all. Be careful not to get too personal and share too many details. Balance informality and professionalism. Don’t spread negativity. Sure, everyone has stuff to complain about, but people are generally drawn to positive individuals, who can motivate and inspire, instead of bringing others down.
How can you have a healthy relationship with a coworker with whom you don’t get along?
Because you work together, you can’t avoid all contact with a coworker you don’t get along with. Communicate openly and with respect – acceptance and understanding are key. Perhaps you’ll find some common ground. Express your feelings, but maybe don’t tell them bluntly that you don’t like them. Instead, discuss what doesn’t work for you and suggest potential solutions. Focus on the benefits for the company.