Little things count
When it comes to building strong relationships with remote workers, you don't have to do that much, says Collins. Essentially, you want to become more than a name on an email chain, he says, and while that takes more effort if you work out of a home office, it still shouldn't be that hard. For example, Collins will do something as simple as change the avatar on his Web conferencing profile every day as one way to break the ice and let his personality show through.
It can be as simple as taking a moment to ask how everyone is doing at the start of a conference call. If you know a coworker recently went on vacation, you can make a note to ask about his or her trip, says Collins.
He also suggests jotting down coworker's birthdays in your calendar, so you can take a moment to send a personal note. You can also use messaging apps to keep up informal conversations with coworkers by sending funny links or even work related information you think they might find helpful. Think of it as a way to replicate those quick conversations you'd have while getting coffee in the break room.
Invest in tools
Just as technology has enabled more employees to work from home, it also offers countless tools to help you stay connected. Collins points out how conference calls can often be dull and participants might be distracted by Twitter or email. His solution is video, because it encourages everyone to stay focused on the meeting and become more immersed in the conversation. Using video also helps put a face to the name and build a stronger rapport over time, he says.
If your company doesn't use services like Lync, Google Hangouts, Skype or Slack, bring it up in your next meeting. See if the company is interested in paying for, or at least trying out a service that will help create stronger interpersonal relationships among remote employees. If not, you might consider investing in a service if you can swing it, or you can always rely on a free service like Skype or Google. If it's effective, then your manager will have a use case to push the company to invest in similar tools for the entire team.
Maintaining a strong delineation between work and home can become a slippery slope when your office is 10 feet from your living room, so you need to be very clear about your schedule. Make sure your manager and coworkers have a firm understanding of when you're around and when you're not. That way you stay accessible and can plan regular times to check in or collaborate with co-workers, says Collins. It also shows you are a team player and lets co-workers know they can reach out to you without fear of disturbing or bothering you in your off hours.
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