Building Better Virtual Relationships

Oct 03, 2023 | By Jenna van Schoor

Are we building solid virtual relationships with coworkers while communicating via digital channels? In an online working environment, it can be easy to forget that effective social communication with coworkers is vital to building trust. 

Whether at home, in an office, or both, most work and communication happen online via text, email or software. Unless you do primarily in-person work, your face-to-face interactions are likely limited to meetings, brief office interactions or when you make an effort to spend time with colleagues outside of work.

In this post, we’ll learn more about building trust and how to implement intentional relationship-building in your business, even when everyone is working online.

The need to build trust

It’s perfectly possible to have one-dimensional working relationships and be able to perform specific routine tasks. However, to grow a thriving business and ensure employee satisfaction, employees must feel like they belong and are valued. You can’t have this unless employees know and trust one another.

There must be space to share openly and discuss more personal topics to build trust. It’s inappropriate for meetings and team-building conversations to become therapy sessions or opportunities to vent. However, a certain amount of disclosure and sharing is vital to developing a more cohesive team culture.

Managers can create this type of space by prioritising relationship-building in their teams and developing relationships with other managers beyond regular work meetings.

Ideas for building relationships in your team

Apart from organising in-person team-building experiences, which aren’t always possible due to geographical or financial constraints, there are many ways to facilitate sharing and build virtual relationships.

Some ideas include playing online games with coworkers. For example, online quizzes could involve teams or individuals competing against one another. If this activity becomes popular, it could be a regular event and become part of the broader company culture. 

Another idea is to set aside regular time for employees to meet online to discuss a topic. One employee chooses a topic they are interested in, which isn’t directly related to work, and gives a short presentation. Other team members can comment or share their ideas once the presentation is complete.

Implementation can happen in various ways, depending on the company and individual preferences. The key is to honour the intention of getting everyone to know each other more personally, outside of email, chat or software. 

These experiences could lead to further conversations and help build rapport. This interaction can be especially welcome when people mainly communicate via text or video calls and don’t often have the chance to engage personally.

Making personal conversations more routine

After reading the suggestions above, you might think, “These are all great ideas, but who has time to implement them when there is so much work?”. Time management is a valid concern. It isn’t realistic to assume that everyone will always have the time to engage in non-work-related conversations under pressure.

However, there are ways to ensure these activities occur by making them a regular part of your weekly or monthly work schedule. These activities also don’t have to take a lot of time. Even a short half-an-hour quiz game or a short 5-minute presentation on a topic and 25 minutes of conversation can go a long way to building rapport with others.

Another idea is to encourage employees to have individual knowledge-sharing conversations with each other when they have time. While everyone needs to prioritise work, giving employees the space to discuss topics they want to learn more about could lead to innovative ideas and exciting collaborations. 

Seeing the benefit of giving team members time to collaborate outside their task list might be challenging. However, managers can help foster this kind of interaction by having more informal conversations with other employees, including managers in other departments.

People are social beings, and prioritising virtual relationships can help to achieve greater productivity and harmony in the long run, even if immediate tasks seem more critical.

Enhance your communication and management skills

We’ve shared some ideas on how you can become more intentional about relationships and team building in your business and create opportunities for meaningful interaction in a virtual space.

If you’d like to improve your communication skills, both in-person and online, SACAP Global offers  three communication courses:

For those who are interested in improving motivation, morale and employee wellness in their team, we also offer the following:

Whether you’re a manager, employee or business owner, our specialised short courses can help you better understand motivation and communication , which can go a long way to building long-lasting and productive virtual relationships. 

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