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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

4 "Old-Fashioned" Ways to Stay Connected to Your Co-workers—No Matter How Far Away They Are

Just because you are lucky enough to work remotely doesn’t mean you can say goodbye to all of the professional habits of yesteryear. While the Rolodex is due its moment of silence, there are plenty of old school business habits that can help your career now.

So, before you start thinking that Slack and Skype are all that you need to successfully work from home, you may want to consider some of these 20th century ideas.

1. Send Thank You Notes

Stop! Don’t toss that old box of stationary! Whether you keep a handful of generic “thank you” cards or personal stationary from “the desk of,” snail mail is an excellent way to reach out to co-workers, interviewers, or clients.

Here are some occasions when you might want to bust one out:

  • When you’ve gone on a job interview: Sending a thank you note through the mail (in addition the one you emailed immediately following the interview) gets the hiring manager’s attention and reminds him or her of how wonderful you are.
  • When a client or vendor has been particularly helpful: This is a great way to strengthen relationships and help the person on the other end of the email remember that you’re a real, live human.
  • When co-workers go out of their way to assist you: Just because you usually see them from the shoulders up doesn’t mean you can skip those words of appreciation.
  • When your boss acknowledges you: Respect and recognition go both ways. When your boss looks out for you, believes in you, or teaches you something new, send her a quick thank you. Just keep it short, sweet, and light.

2. Acknowledge Birthdays

In a similar vein, when you work from your living room, birthdays can easily be forgotten. Sure, being remote means you might need to do a little extra legwork, but it’s so worth it when you consider what it does for your professional relationships.

All it takes is a few easy steps to make sure you’re always on top of it. First, use your planner or create calendar alerts that remind you to send a card the week before the birthday. Second, come up with a system that applies to everyone. Whether you have five to remember, or dozens, work out a consistent method for acknowledging them (so you don’t look like your playing favorites). My trick is pre-signed birthday cards that I address and drop in the mail. When I have the time, I add a personalized note. Done and Done!

One thing to know: Most of the people you send birthday cards to won’t reciprocate, because, well it’s 2015. But don’t let that stop you from going the extra mile and standing out in their minds.

3. Practice Etiquette

“Don’t chew with your mouth full and keep your arms off the table!”

OK, so maybe those don’t apply as much to you, but they’re a great starting point when it comes to simply showing courtesy to your colleagues.

What do I mean? Give extra focus to even the most basic etiquette. Instead of a vague “Hello?” when you pick up the phone, say something along the lines of “Hi, this is Erica.” Whether it’s a client, teammate, or your boss on the other end, this kind of greeting instantly orients him or her. Focus on smiling when you speak, too. It works wonders!

And never forget the value of the old “dress for success” mantra, which absolutely applies to video calls. Period. I keep a mirror and a few accessories in my desk drawer so that I can be camera-ready at a moment’s notice. Sure, I might have sweatpants on, but from the waist up, I look polished and confident.

4. Hold In-Person Meetings

Let’s face facts: Google Hangout or Skype only take us all so far. If you live close to some of your teammates, try to meet for coffee to talk shop or learn more about them. While this is a taller (read: impossible) task for some global teams, it’s absolutely worth mentioning when you’re within driving distance of your co-workers. Even if you’re in different cities, you never know when travel plans might overlap and you could swing by HQ or meet your favorite freelancer for a drink.

Sound like time capsule advice? Hear me out: It isn't just about putting a face with a name—it’s about adding a human touch to the individuals working with you from the other side of a screen. And this time spent building relationships is valuable in any era.

Slowing down, putting a pen on paper, and leaving your digital pinky out shows the people you work with that you’re invested in them.

The result? You’ll do incredible work together.

Photo of writing courtesy of Shutterstock.