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February 2, 2017 By Raph DaCosta

Work Remotely? Don’t Hide like a Groundhog: Build Better Relationships

February 2, 2017

By Raph DaCosta

Read More from Raph DaCosta

February 2, 2017

Work Remotely? Don’t Hide like a Groundhog: Build Better Relationships

By Raph DaCosta
Social Media Specialist

Well, this morning Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, so it looks like we are all in for another six weeks of winter…If you’re sitting in your chilly home office, layered in woolly sweaters, watching your fingertips turn blue, you might think groundhogs are onto something hibernating in their holes until the spring.

In late fall, they go to sleep in their cozy burrows. Once in place, groundhogs don’t awaken until late winter. But alas, for humans, hibernating isn’t an option–especially not if you’re a remote worker.

It’s often tempting to fade into the virtual background, stay quiet, and tackle your to-do list. And with a few keystrokes, you can tell Slack, “/dnd for 100 hours.” But playing the role of the hibernating remote worker isn’t good for your work relationships, or your career.

To truly excel at remote work remote workers need to actively build strong working relationships with coworkers and clients to be successful. Groundhogs know just when to emerge from hibernation and remote workers need to develop the same skill.

If you’re the office hibernator, disappearing throughout the day, or not speaking up during meetings, you run the risk of putting your career into permanent hibernation.

So stop hiding! Here are some tips to make sure even when you are out of sight, you’re not out of mind:

1. Stop talking about work.

Do we mean all the time? Of course not. But casual conversation doesn’t happen as “casually” in a remote work environment as it does in a traditional office, so you have to make it happen.

Whether through email, IM, message boards, or video conference coffee talks, take time to ask about your coworkers’ lives outside of work, to build more meaningful relationships with them.

2. Offer your help, and ask for help from others.

There are certainly times when every remote worker adopts a “do not disturb” mode to get things done. But to connect with your coworkers on a deeper level, speak up and offer your help if they’re stuck or overwhelmed.

And ask for help when you need it. Even a quick brainstorm to find a good title for your report can go a long way to bond a team.

3. Use video and screensharing.

Nonverbal communication is a huge part of how we communicate. Research studies place nonverbal communication somewhere between 55 and 60 percent of conversation, with the remainder being tone of voice and words spoken.

So, if you never communicate with your remote coworkers over video conferencing platforms like join.me, you could be losing up to 60 percent of the cues and connections you need to communicate well.

4. Play games (just not the mind kind).

Why are remote workers so much more efficient and productive than in-office workers? Because they ignore or avoid the most common office distractions. But if you’re looking to build stronger relationships with your remote coworkers, it shouldn’t be all business, all the time.

Chris Higgins at Lucid Meetings offers these ideas for distributed team meeting icebreakers, but you could use these at any time simply by IMing them to a group of your colleagues:

  • “Take a picture of your shoes.”
  • “What’s your favorite meal?”
  • “Where are we?”

The key to these games or ice breakers is that answers should be visual. Whether over video conference, screensharing, or by sending each other pictures, it’s another way to introduce visuals into your work day.

So, while it might be tempting to act like a groundhog during the winter, burrowing yourself into your work without interacting with others, resist the temptation. Remote workers do benefit from flexible working, but remote relationships, and ultimately the trajectory of your career, also benefit from taking the time to build solid working relationships with your teammates and managers. After all, even groundhogs come out of hibernation in the middle of winter for at least for a day!

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