Many of us still feel we struggle to connect with colleagues when working from home, although most of us have had plenty of time to practice! For a while it seemed that remote working was temporary so we didn’t need to overthink it.
However, many of us are remote workers all or much of the time now, so the issue of how to connect with colleagues remains a challenge. Perhaps you feel lonely or disconnected from your colleagues, or maybe you love working from home but don’t feel you know your colleagues anymore.
Or, if you’ve started a new job since the pandemic, you may never have had the chance to meet your colleagues in real life at all! It does take effort and maintenance to really connect with colleagues when working from home, so read on for how best to improve your situation.
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1. Turn your camera on
I still feel shy about turning my camera on but there’s no denying you make a much better connection if you do. You’ll know how it is yourself to look at your screen and not see the other person.
So whether it’s a one-to-one or a group meeting, turn your camera on so they can see your face and expressions. It’s nice to see someone smiling and laughing, as well as catching when they look unsure and might need you to explain.
You can boost your confidence on camera by doing the necessary preparation. Be presentable with your dress sense (no pyjamas or slobby round-the-house gear), get yourself a decent headphones and microphone set (or even separate camera) if the built-in options on your laptop are too weak.
You could also treat yourself to a flattering ring light which might make you feel more comfortable having your camera on, your skin looks great with one!
2. Have non-work zoom meet ups
If you are missing the water cooler or kitchen cuppa chat then recreate it online. You can start a Teams or Skype chat group for check-ins and non-work related conversation. And you can arrange non-work online meetings to see each other’s faces and catch up!
I find my colleagues and I often end up digressing on our work calls, probably because we no longer have an outlet for social chat. Just book the time in separately.
You could bring your coffee or lunch during a catch up session with your colleagues. Or you could arrange a weekly online event for socialising, such as a quiz.
There are lots of fun ways you can stay connected with co-workers when you work from home. Ask around and see if others are also keen to make this a regular thing.
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3. Celebrate successes
If the company has won a client/contract/your equivalent then make sure there is an opportunity to discuss and celebrate that as a team.
If a colleague has had a promotion that they deserve, send them a message, give them a call or send them an e-card. You can still make people feel valued and connect with colleagues when working from home.
You can also celebrate non-work related events. If a colleague has a birthday, is having a baby or moving on, then make them feel special by booking in a session online.
Previously it was so easy to drop by someone’s desk or give them a proper send off, but times have changed and we need to make more of an effort online. This is an opportunity to celebrate their successes and stay connected with colleagues even if you work remotely.
4. Meet in real life if possible
If you are really struggling to connect with colleagues when working from home, look for opportunities for real life contact in the flesh.
Find out if any of your colleagues live nearby and want to meet for a walk or lunch sometime. At my work, we shared postcodes (ZIP codes) during the pandemic so people could reach out to others that were in reachable distance.
Perhaps as a team you could get together for a monthly or quarterly meeting too. If not all can join in person, there could be the option to dial in. But for those that can make it in, it’s a great opportunity to connect with colleagues in person and catch up.
My team meets once a month and it’s a chance for face-to-face meetings and a group lunch too. It could help build stronger relationships with colleagues that carry over into the online world.
5. Try a co-working space or friendly café
If it’s the day-to-day routine without human contact that you’re struggling with, consider changing your environment or at least mix it up part of the week.
Is there a co-working space you could try? Even once or twice a week could make the difference. Many have free trials, so see what’s available in your area. Or how about a friendly local café where you might meet others?
You could team up with a friend or colleague in the area and work at each other’s places for a bit of company. You can take turns and provide the coffee and biscuits or a nice lunch. It’s a great way to get to know your colleagues better and will remind you of the old days of the office!
If you work alone and don’t have colleagues, you might benefit from joining groups of like-minded people in a similar position e.g. for small business owners, for bloggers, for writers and so on. See what you can find via Facebook, Meetup or similar as there may be a way to meet other people for networking or socialising in real life too, if you’re missing that connection.
6. Pick up the phone
Yes, it’s old school but if you’re sick of being on camera, then take it back to when a phone call was the best way to communicate remotely. You could call a colleague, family member or friend during lunch so you feel connected and have a real conversation.
Even with colleagues, if you aren’t getting anywhere via online methods such as emails and instant messaging, you might find picking up the phone solves a communication issue more easily.
It’s also just nice to hear a person’s voice as you can’t always tell much from emails where the tone might be more formal. This is a quick way to connect with colleagues when working from home.
Final thoughts: keep talking and stay open to connect with colleagues when working from home
It’s more important than ever to stay connected with colleagues now so many of us work from home, all or part the time. It was so easy to call over to colleagues or bump into them in the office, before remote working became so common.
Now we are at risk of working in silos at home, or disconnecting on zoom meetings because it’s easy to hide and stay quiet. You may be distracted by things at home and not give your full attention.
Perhaps you are a hybrid worker and go into your office part of the week, but it’s still not quite the same, is it? And with everyone working in the office on different days, it’s likely you could miss the key people you wanted to catch up with.
I think the permanent move to working from home is a great benefit to those of us already juggling so much, but it does mean you miss out on certain connections and the opportunity to build relationships on a work or personal level.
If you feel lonely or isolated speak up to your manager, HR or a trusted colleague to see if there’s anything that can be done. You may not be the only one that feels like this. If you want to make other positive changes at work, read about ways to go about it.
Interestingly, it’s my younger colleagues that seem to struggle the most with working from home and miss the social factor. Or if they are new to the working environment altogether, this is not what they imagined working life to look like.
Perhaps it’s less of an issue if you are juggling household management and kids once you’re older, or you feel you’ve been working long enough that you don’t need the water cooler chat anymore.
But it’s not just about the socialising, if you don’t keep connecting as a team, it can mean work suffers, morale goes down and misunderstandings become more commonplace.
You can read much more on topics related to working from home which is a key focus of this site. If you struggle with it all, also read staying productive while working from home and how to practice self-care while working from home.
Tell me how you connect with colleagues when working from home? If you work for yourself and don’t have a team or colleagues at all, how do you prevent loneliness and isolation during your working day?
Or maybe you love this way of working and happy to avoid the office politics? Share your thoughts below.
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