One of the new challenges we may be faced with while we battle coronavirus is starting a new job and adjusting to the fact you won’t have the opportunity to meet your coworkers in-person for some time. It can be nerve wracking enough to start a new job, but when you don’t have the luxury of being in the same office as your team, it can pose some challenges. Luckily, the challenges you face aren’t insurmountable and success just requires you to be more intentional about creating connections with your colleagues. While in the past you might have relied on more informal introductions, like bumping into people in the kitchen or having your desk near them, you now have to seek out these opportunities. The good news is that being a new employee is the perfect excuse to reach out to coworkers you do not know! Here are some specific strategies you can use to create those personal connections virtually.
Get Connected to Existing Resources
The first strategy is to utilize the company’s existing resources to help you build a connection. Even before everyone shifted to working from home, most companies had tools to connect employees with each other when they aren’t face-to-face. The most common tool that people have been using to engage socially with their coworkers is Slack (or similar intra-office messaging systems). If your company uses Slack, ask your teammates which channels you should join, both for work and for fun. In fact, a former company I worked for even had a channel specifically for connecting you to a new person at the company every two weeks. I used this channel to widen my network beyond the immediate teams I worked with and it was really effective at helping me create relationships with more people at the company.
Additionally, as part of your Onboarding experience you can make sure you are invited to any team meetings or stand-ups, any currently scheduled events like a virtual Happy Hour, and ensure you are added to the appropriate email distribution lists. All of these resources already exist in some form at your company and tapping into them will help ensure you are part of the same conversations as your coworkers.
Set-up 1:1s With Team Members
The key to thriving when you are working virtually is to be proactive about managing your work relationships. Even if you were in the office, I’d recommend when starting a new job that in your first 2-3 weeks you set-up 1:1s with each of your teammates and key coworkers you will need to work with in your new role. These meetings can be used to accomplish a few different goals. First, you should use this meeting to give you an introduction to your coworker’s role and the projects they are working on. While not all of their work may be relevant to your role, what can be relevant is asking this coworker how they like to work so that you can collaborate effectively. Even asking them which teams they have the best relationship with and why can tell you a lot about what you need to do to create a successful working relationship with this individual.
In addition to learning about their work, you can also use this time to get to know your coworkers on a personal level. Particularly during this time, even asking something as basic as “how are you feeling and adjusting” could reveal a lot about this individual. Lastly, use this 1:1 or a follow-up meeting to get to know their interests. What do they like to do for fun? Any upcoming trips they are looking forward to? This is how you can start to figure out whether you have interests in common with your coworkers outside of work and then build upon those interests via a social event.
Organize a Social Event for Your Team
One of the biggest adjustments that people seem to have trouble with when starting a new remote job is translating how they normally create connections with people in-person to how they can do that virtually. The key is to not overthink it. Ask yourself what would you normally do with your coworkers. Would you normally attend a Happy Hour or organize a Settlers of Catan game night? With some intentionality you can translate these opportunities. Again, it helps to first inquire if there are any events already scheduled and get yourself invited to those. If there aren’t any events scheduled, offer to schedule something based on your own interests. Have a pet? Organize a pet Happy Hour where everyone brings their pets to chat and connect. Maybe another themed Happy Hour could draw a crowd. Really into binge watching Netflix? Maybe you can organize a TV watching session for your favorite show or guilty pleasure (I highly recommend “Love is Blind” or “Tiger King”). Can you organize a Game Night or invite your team members to one you already are organizing for your other friends? Or hey, can you play one of your favorite video games with them? We’re very into “Rocket League” in my house. The point is, there is a way to enjoy those same social events with your coworkers even when you are working virtually. You just need to seek them out and offer to plan one or two yourself to kick things off.
Whether your role was always going to be remote, your team works in a different office, or your whole company has had to migrate to remote work due to the coronavirus, there’s a way to create strong connections with your team even when you won’t get to physically be next to them every day. What’s your favorite way to connect?