Not everyone can work from home. An introvert personality might be one of the top requirements for this path. Anyone who loves social interaction for the most part of their day may not fare well with working from home. You’ll be alone most of the time and you’ll have the tendency of feeling isolated from the world.
That shouldn’t stop you from getting to know and starting a friendship with your coworkers though. Clocking in hours for work will be a breeze when you have developed trust and camaraderie with who you work with. That’s why I created a list of things I did and others that I plan to do to start a relationship with my coworkers.
1. Start with yourself.
It’s a cliche but I’ve always believed that you can’t give something that you don’t have. If you can’t foster a sense of friendship with yourself, it will be difficult to build a relationship with someone else. This is especially true if that “someone else” that you usually talk to lives a country away from you and you only see each other physically once a year.
Starting with yourself is very much a conscious effort to proof yourself as someone trustworthy, dependable, and reliable. Giving off this kind of reputation will assure your coworkers that you are a good addition to the team and you can work together to reach your common goal.
2. Participate in company-initiated meetings.
Anything that is mandatory for all company employees to attend falls under this item. This includes townhall meetings, quick status updates, focus group discussions, one-on-one, and the like. Even if your presence will not be easily missed, make sure that you attend and actively participate in all gatherings. This will not only show your boss that you want to contribute, it will also serve as an informal introduction to other coworkers that you don’t usually interact with.
3. Speak up on non work-related banter.
You won’t be able to casually meet a coworker on the water cooler (because said water cooler is non existent in your situation) so getting to know them will take a little more effort than what you’re used to. Arriving on a meeting (which means connecting to a web conference application for a work-related “group chat”), say a quick greeting to everyone. Ask them how their weekend went and share a bit of your own. Try bringing up non-work related stories on your Skype messages or maybe change your profile photo every week to show a bit of your personality a little at a time.
Bosses on normal offices have a lower tolerance to banter compared to when you work remotely. It’s even encouraged, since it indirectly strengthens the bond of workers and makes it comfortable for everyone to work together.
4. Be more expressive.
There will never be anything wrong with overcommunication when you work from home. Since communication is a combination of verbal, non verbal, and behavioral cues, it’s essential to be more expressive in text. If you want to explain, do so with utmost depth by including a background, context, and conclusion in the message you’re trying to relay.
Using emojis is greatly encouraged as well. Since text won’t show your reaction (especially when you’re being sarcastic and making jokes), emojis can make or break your message.
As with all tips and tricks, moderation is key. Overcommunication and using emojis will eventually reach the end of being an “essential” and will start to creep up to something of an annoyance. Practice discipline and wisdom in your expression and you will be fine.
5. Respect cultural differences.
It’s always a privilege for me to be exposed to different cultures. I find each opportunity to be a learning adventure especially when it involves work.
If you know that you’re working with an international company, I suggest researching how their culture is when it comes to work. Are they assertive? Do they prefer gentle or confrontational? How do they react to certain situations? What is their focus? How do they prioritize? The answers to these questions will come in handy once you start your job and experience these first hand.
Your preparation will not only serve you in starting relationships smoothly, it will also greatly decrease the risks of misunderstanding or misinterpreting a coworker. A little goes a long way with research.
6. Re-read messages before sending them.
This tip has saved my butt again and again.
Whenever I am in situations wherein I feel emotional or pressured about a deadline, I have the tendency to not think about what I’m typing. I forget that I have to be careful in setting the tone for the conversation. A few months down the line of telecommuting, I have developed the habit of not replying on instinct. I want each message to be sent with intent. This is the way to make sure that my words cannot be misconstrued.
The next time you know you’re emotionally unstable, try taking a longer time to respond to someone. Read your message 2-3 times before hitting “send”. That will not only save you potential drama but it will also start off a pleasant conversation that might turn your mood around.
7. Assume ignorance before malice (Hanlon’s razor).
I learned about Hanlon’s razor from Agile Trail. This is an adage: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” I prefer to use the word “ignorance” though since the conclusion of stupidity may be attributed to misunderstanding.
Even if you have all the most effective software applications to use for working remotely, there is always potential for miscommunication (especially when you’re dealing with customers). To assume that who you’re talking to is being stupid or slow to catch up is counterproductive. Rather, remember your situation and attribute the misunderstanding to miscommunication. This will not only help you see the good in people, it will also show your colleagues how professional you are.
8. Listen actively.
As I’ve learned in many communication trainings before, hearing is different from listening. Listening is not exactly the same as actively listening.
Listening will benefit you solely. On the other hand, actively listening benefits both you and who you’re speaking with. You will understand and build a good relationship with your colleague or your client. And at the same time, your colleague/client will feel that he is being heard (hence, he will be nicer and more cooperative).
Building relationships with coworkers is challenging enough in a normal office setting. It is more so when you work from home. Try out my suggestions above and let me know if you’ve gained better camaraderie with your colleagues. I would also love to hear if you have more suggestions that we can add to this list.