6 Ways to Build Authentic Relationships With Your Remote Team

authentic relationships

It’s been over a year that companies have been working remotely and it’s likely that at least some members of your team will continue to do so, at least some portion of the time.  For productivity to be consistent, maintaining a high morale is key.  Ensuring authentic relationships are being made and cultivated strengthens your team’s connection and ultimately improves their work. Here are six ways to build and maintain work relationships while working remote.

Create a culture of flexibility.

This pandemic has proven that we can adjust our work schedules and expectations and still succeed and workers expect to continue to enjoy greater flexibility.  Leaders need to recognize and adapt to these expectations. Authentic relationships, new and old, need to be built on a foundation of empathy and understanding.  Flexibility is one way to express these elements.  As a leader, when you can accommodate and cooperate, you are showing your team that you value them as people. This will not go unnoticed, and the effort behind your flexibility will only be met with appreciation.   

Build flexibility into your projects. As we’re learning, burnout is at an all time high and pandemic fatigue is real.  Understanding where you can be flexible will make a big impact.  Likewise, scheduling fewer or shorter meetings allows people to manage their workload better.  The age-old question, “could this meeting have been an email” is especially valid when working from home.      

Go the extra mile to connect and collaborate.

Just like with family and friends, the key to strong relationships is to stay connected.  We haven’t seen each other in a long time and working from home can be lonely. If you have a new hire, make sure they meet each person on your team.  You don’t have to chaperone but providing one on one time (especially when they’re new) will help them adjust.    

When you are having a meeting, turn your camera on to set an example that others can follow.  Being able to see faces and body language can make a huge difference, even on mute. This may seem small, but it is the little elements like this that make all the difference. You want to avoid demanding cameras on as that can create resentment, but if your team is resisting it you can bring up that you’d like to suggest people use their cameras to create more camaraderie. 

Another way to connect and collaborate is through developing a peer-to-peer coaching program. Organize meetings between team members without you present and set the agenda so that they promote productivity and team building. Whether its project based, solutions oriented, or getting to better know one another, the choice is yours to make.  This method of connection can be extremely successful due to accountability through remote engagement and creating a team atmosphere in the form of collaboration.   Team members begin to see their colleagues as a safe source for advice, creating trust among one another.

Making sure you are reaching out at an individual level to your team will also ensure they feel seen. By prioritizing one on ones with staff, teams will feel valued and cared for as you create a system of virtual support they can rely on.

Solicit feedback proactively.

Providing open lines of communication between you and your team ensures voices are heard and thoughts are valued, this is how a relationship is built.  Your goal is to find out what your team needs and how you can help them accomplish their individual and collective goals. Allow your team the space to explore these questions together and offer solutions for you and each other as well. 

Maintain relationships through open conversations.  Tools like confidential surveys are helpful to provide a safe space for employees to share their thoughts, feedback, and challenges. Make space in your schedule to check in with people through candid, unrelated work, conversation. The results will only help you better understand your team and equally make your team feel as though you are trying to better understand their needs.  It’s a win-win situation.

Take a break to model healthy boundaries.

Taking regular breaks throughout the day is key to productivity.  Encourage your team to physically removing step away from the computer or office regularly and discuss this often to ensure its happening.  Work life balance has become extremely blurred since the office has become the living room or bedroom and this can actually stifle productivity as people become over-exhausted.

When your staff is well rested and recharged, you’ll notice a difference in motivation.  Because of that, breaks need to be protected and respected throughout the department.  When breaks are disturbed, there can be a negative effect on team morale.  To prevent this from happening, try using a system like a shared calendar or Slack.  These are great tools to communicate when you are taking breaks, even passively through an away message, so others know not to interrupt. Authenticity comes from doing as you say.

Go the extra mile to recognize good work.

When you’re not there to see and be seen, it can be hard for people to feel as though their work is being noticed.  Recognition and appreciation will always keep morale high.  Celebrating the small, and big, accomplishments is vital and what seems like a minuscule gesture to you will mean a lot to your team members.  By making the effort, you’re ensuring employees feel cared for.  Never miss an opportunity to praise others for doing a good job especially in front of others.  

Personalized surprises for your staff is a great way to provide specific and memorable moments to your team and strengthen authentic relationships further.  Maybe it’s a coffee or food gift card, maybe it’s a voucher to dinner at their favorite restaurant, whatever it is that personal touch makes all the difference.  You can also try hosting virtual birthdays, arrange for a small gift or cupcakes to be delivered or just give them a shoutout that day.

Recognition and acknowledgement will always be strong motivators.  Show that you are grateful for them and they will continue to bring you their best.

Work hard, play hard.

Social activities should be encouraged among your staff, especially when they’re working from home all day.  Virtual happy hours will be better attended if you can provide extra incentives like free food delivered to their homes or offer gift cards to a liquor delivery service so people don’t feel like their need to fund their own office fun. Provide opportunities for your team to let loose, have some fun and learn more about one another and build their own authentic relationships.

Just like in-person, you may find the conversation starts off a bit stilted, so be prepared with icebreaker games. You can even bring in reinforcements by bringing the team to a virtual escape room or event. 

Make the effort to build relationships

We can’t control what happens in the outside world, but we can control how we handle it. Even when unprecedented times strike, there’s no reason not to always invest in authentic relationships at work. Use these six strategies to ensure that new hires feel welcome and like part of the team and that veteran folks feel appreciated and valued. 

About the Author

Alyson has a Masters Degree in Visual Merchandising and a Bachelors Degree in Writing and Rhetoric. She has extensive experience in the fashion industry, from working in high-end luxury to startups and mass retailers alike. She's extremely knowledgeable in trend analysis, styling, and curating, as well as creating visuals. Alyson is a born and raised New Yorker who loves to travel, write, and pet dogs in her free time. Connect with her on LinkedIn to see examples of her work.