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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

Ask a Professional Remote Worker: How Can I Bond With My Team When I'm Remote?

person working remotely
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Dear Remote Worker,

I love working remotely. But, I’ve found that it can be challenging to bond with my boss and my team members when we don’t have the luxury of things like lunches and happy hours.

How can I forge a solid, somewhat personal relationship with my manager and team when we only ever connect over the internet about work-related matters?

Connecting From Afar

Dear Connecting From Afar,

I’m so glad you asked this question, because I know firsthand that it’s something so many remote workers struggle with. You want to develop strong working relationships, but it can be challenging to do that from a distance.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I actually work remotely for The Muse, while the rest of my team sits next to each other in the same office. Despite the fact that I’m the one who isn’t there, I’ve never felt like an outsider.

Of course, much of that is owed to my awesome employer. But, I like to think that I’ve had a little to do with the success of this arrangement as well. Here are a few tips I’ve put into practice to feel like a core part of the team—regardless of the fact that I’m hundreds of miles away.

1. Don’t Neglect the Power of Video Chat

Email and instant messaging are convenient, but they don’t empower you to make a more personal connection. That’s why I’m a big fan of using video chats whenever possible.

From our weekly pitch meetings to one-off brainstorming sessions, being able to interact with my team face-to-face makes me feel like I’m actually in the room with them. It’s the next best thing to actually being there.

2. Get a Little Personal

Particularly when you’re remote, it’s easy to fall into the trap of all work and no play. Because so much of your communication with your colleagues is written, it feels odd to include personal anecdotes or casual small talk.

But, that doesn’t mean you can never get a little more personal (while always keeping it appropriate, of course). Whether you want to ask if anybody has recommendations for your upcoming vacation or mention the latest show you’re binge-watching, those seemingly inconsequential personal details can go a long way in solidifying your bond.

We’ve even instituted some different traditions—from sharing photos to ending each meeting on a lighthearted note—that help us connect over things that don’t involve our to-do lists.

3. Schedule Some One-on-One Time

One-on-one time is something that would naturally happen if you were in the same office as your co-workers. Maybe you’d grab coffee with a colleague one day and then have lunch with a different one the next.

When you work remotely, it’s less likely that you’ll be able to have that time with just one team member at a time—unless you make it happen yourself.

For example, I have regular one-on-one video chats scheduled with a few different colleagues. And, when we had a new employee join our team, I reached out to her to set up some time when the two of us could chat directly. That little bit of effort goes a long way in helping you get to know each of your team members—and vice versa.

I’ve been fortunate enough to get together with my co-workers in-person a couple of times, and I love the opportunity to interact with them outside of a computer screen.

However, that’s not feasible for everyone. Fortunately, I know from experience that these tactics will help you feel like an equal part of the team—even though you’re not in the office.