Cultivating Remote Work Friendships

by Maddi Butler

Published on: Oct 7, 2020

As people who have recently switched from commuting to full-time remote work now know, it can be difficult to maintain friendships from afar. Though there’s plenty of advice out there on how to stay in touch with former coworkers, how can you stay connected with current coworkers you’re no longer seeing on a daily basis?

Maybe it won’t be surprising that some of the same advice applies in both situations. Maintaining these relationships might take more effort than you’re used to, but that isn’t to say it’s not worth it. Here are some good places to start if you want to reconnect with coworkers you aren’t seeing in person anymore.

Approach coworkers with compassion

The first thing to keep in mind is simply being considerate. Though many of us are no longer in the early days of working from home, this doesn’t mean it’s an easy change to get used to. Plus, many people are dealing with additional and unexpected responsibilities that cause additional stress. While this shouldn’t discourage you from reaching out to coworkers, let it serve as a reminder that if they don’t respond right away, it’s not because they dislike you.

Start by simply checking in. How is the other person doing? Sometimes a quick, “hey, it’s been a while, how have you been?” over Slack is all you need to get the conversation flowing. Of course, if you’re worried about the other person feeling pressured to respond in a private chat, you can always drop them an email, to which they can reply at their convenience.

If you would rather keep things work-related and work on similar things, reach out and ask whether you can lend a hand. You may be collaborating less if you work remotely, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to do so. Collaboration can ease feelings of stress and isolation—certainly a win for everyone.

Find commonalities, make connections

But what if you don’t really know your coworkers too well? It might seem awkward to simply reach out unprompted. In this case, the first step is to find a point of connection.

In an article for Fast Company, Psychology and Marketing professor Art Markman recommends taking advantage of remote meetings that use video. Instead of showcasing a white wall, Markman suggests livening up your background with visible markers of things you’re interested in. Not only can this make you seem more approachable, it can also give others a way to learn where your interests overlap.

Whether you’re trying to reconnect with old friends or bridge the gap to make new ones, the most important things to remember are to be compassionate and be genuine.