How To Build and Maintain Relationships Without Physical Connection

How To Build and Maintain Relationships Without Physical Connection

With the recent but quick changeover to remote working for people all over the world, it may take some time to adjust to – especially if you’re a social butterfly or if you live alone. We all appreciate a certain amount of interaction or connection with people we work with and now we have removed most of the social aspects we had when we were physically in the office. Due to current circumstances surrounding the pandemic, it has become an even more urgent necessity for socializing and maintaining a good working relationship, whether you’re already a remote worker, occasionally working from home, or if this is completely new to you.

The ability to adapt to an ever-changing situation allows you to be more flexible, resilient and hardy with the surmounting pressure and stress that you don’t normally face on a day to day basis. While there’s a vast amount of information and resources available to help cope with isolation and a change in working environments, it seems it is becoming increasingly important to build up our resilience and adaptability to new working environments. Now, we must find a new normal in connecting with each other differently from how we were used to. As we can no longer – for the time being – shake hands with each other, have a coffee, or share a friendly hug, we can only be thankful for the advancement of technology.

In this digital age, we are lucky to have an alternative to working, meeting and connecting with people around the world, and instantly be linked through apps on a smartphone or computer. With this in mind, here are some ways to connect from a distance, how you can build relationships online until you can see each other in person again, helpful tips on maintaining a connection from afar, and personal experiences from two of our Talent Solutions Consultants, David Schneider based in New York City, USA and Bita Najafi based in London, England who are permanent remote workers at MHS.

How to Connect from a Distance

  • Schedule communication and/or meetings to make sure tasks don’t fall through the cracks, to see if they need assistance, or just to have a “checkup” call that’s outside of work topics.

  • Choose video calls over audio,, as you can see the other person and put a face to the name. You can also read each others’ expressions and understand their body language, especially if they are from a different country with different cultures.

  • Use social media, technology, and collaborative tools. There are many apps and social channels available to either keep in touch or stay updated with the news, hobbies, personal lives, and more. Apps and tools such as FaceTime, WhatsApp, Zoom, Houseparty, online games, etc. can allow you to interact with each other and see each other while having fun.

  • Online communities are available everywhere. Whether they are of groups with the same interests, or a forum where you can speak your mind brainstorm ideas. Creating concepts and learning from others on this type of platform allows you to build connections with many people all over the world.

Building Relationships Online

  • Make an effort to get to know them personally and build genuine rapport. Not all meetings have to be about business, make calls to check in.

  • Build a relationship outside of work-related topics. Maybe a client or co-worker of yours have interests and hobbies that align with yours, you can help each other develop that skill.

  • Not only does the relationship have to be a digital one, when there is an opportunity to meet in person (once we are able to do so again) when someone is in town, have a quick bite and catch up.

  • Focus efforts on building high quality relationships where it will result in increased productivity and collaboration, referrals, trust, and less of a feeling of isolation. Quality over quantity as we do want to spend our times wisely as well.

  • It doesn’t hurt to continue the “office chit-chat” occasionally over online messenger too to see how each other are doing.

  • Be aware that email and online communication can be misunderstood and be mindful of your words and intonations in writing.

Tips on Respecting Online Relationships/Connections

  • Define work hours. We all have a personal life that needs to be separated from work life now that most of us are working from home and it’s important to keep good habits for a well-maintained work-life balance. Having access to technology does not mean people are available 24/7.

  • Since building relationships online means there is a physical barrier, try to be more open and transparent so people have an overview of what you’re doing.

  • Not only does the relationship have to be a digital one, when there is an opportunity to meet in person (once we are able to do so again) when someone is in town, have a quick bite and catch up.

  • It’s good to be communicative, but not over-communicative. It is good to at least give someone a head’s up if you plan to have a video call with them, and not bombard them with emails and messages if they are not able to respond right away.

  • Be mindful of time zones and that sometimes your working hours differ from someone else’s and their days may be just ending as yours is starting.

  • Keep in mind country restrictions of technology use. Some countries don’t allow for Google platforms or certain social media channels. You will have to find the best platform that works for both parties.

  • If the other person is from a different country, try to understand their local culture as the way they speak, or their body language can differ from yours.

Personal Experiences from MHS Talent Solutions Consultants

David Schneider, located in New York City, USA

Territory: Northern USA

Connecting with Clients

The problem with remote working is that humans are by nature, social creatures. Even if you are an introvert, you are still missing out on a key aspect of your everyday life. I, however, have been a remote worker for 2 years now and have learned a few tricks to staying sane during these insane times. Before social distancing and self-isolation, I would meet clients for coffee or lunch once or twice a week. Not only did this help get me out of the house, but it was a great way to forge a stronger bond with my clients. Just because the option to leave your house is taken away from most people, it does not mean you have to stop being “social”. Keep in mind your clients are probably working from home too and they also miss interacting with their co-workers.

A great way to interact with your clients is to not just call and ask them about business, but to ask them how they are doing in these tough times. I live in NYC and the amount of times clients have reached out to me needing something but started the first 5 minutes of the conversation by asking how I am, is incredible. Through trying times like these, people are showing how kind and caring we can be. I too start most of my business conversations now with a “check-in”. I simply ask, “Hey, how are you and your family doing?”. Not only is it polite, but it can really help further your relationship with that client by showing that you care and are concerned for them. Also, it is a great opportunity for them to talk to someone about something other than work for a few minutes. Trust me, they appreciate it.

Connecting with Co-workers

This leads to say that it’s not just important to maintain healthy relationships with your clients during this pandemic, but also with your co-workers. A couple weeks ago a colleague of mine suggested that we have a “virtual happy hour”. My team, including our manager, all got on webcams and shared a drink while talking about exclusively non-work-related topics. I’m sure for some, it was the first time all week that they laughed and felt at ease. After the happy hour ended a few of just talked to each other and wondered why we had never done this before. Why did it take a pandemic for us to want to connect? See, most of us have been remote workers for so long that it has started to feel normal to be socially removed from your team – but it most certainly is not. Now more than ever, it is important to stay connected with your co-workers and your clients. There is no excuse. We have the technology.

Bita Najafi, located in London, England, UK.

Territory: International, not including Canada & USA

Meeting Preferences & Processes

I am a visual person and prefer virtual meetings as opposed to a phone call as I can see my client’s body language and pick up on their non-verbal communications.

I search them up on LinkedIn and try to find common interests to talk about. I visit their website, read their LinkedIn profile and prepare a set of questions that I like to ask. It’s important to give myself 5-10 minutes to review all the information I need before the call. I use the time to switch off from all other tasks I am doing and focus on the person I am about to meet. I also remind myself about the purpose of the meeting and focus on the task.

I spend the first part of the meeting chit-chatting and finding out more about them as a person before discussing business. This helps me build better rapport and develop a relationship where I get to know my client better. During these challenging times, our conversations tend to be around COVID-19 and its impact on our professional and personal life. As I work with our global partners, it’s interesting to find out what is happening in each part of the world and how people are reacting to this pandemic.

Keep A Routine

When working from home, it is helpful to pretend that I am going to work and keep a routine. This includes getting up early, having a shower, putting makeup on and dressing as if I was going into the office. I set up tasks for myself and try to complete the hardest ones in the morning. That gives me a sense of achievement and helps me stay in control throughout the day. I tend to follow normal working hours with regular breaks from the computer screen.

Just because we cannot see each other in person doesn’t mean that we must sacrifice relationships, it’s possible to build and maintain social connection without being physically present. The world has been virtual for a while now and is becoming increasingly more so each day, so it’s key not to let distance interrupt our professional relationships. Try to integrate some of what we’ve shared here today into your virtual work life and watch the connections grow!

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