How to Make Friends in Your New Virtual Office
Making friends in person is challenging already, but to do it remotely? You will need a different strategy. With many businesses going remote due to the pandemic, new hires are probably wondering, ‘How can I connect and collaborate with everyone I have never met?’ If you are experiencing such a situation, worry not; just because getting to know your coworkers virtually is not as easy as joining a lunchtime conversation at the office, actually it is not that difficult to do. If you are clueless on how to make friends without having to see them in person, here are some insights on how to make friends in your new (virtual) office.
Importance of Making Friends
“But I work online anyway, so why should I make friends?”
If this thought has ever crossed your mind, you may need to consider these. Working is more than just getting the job done; you need to know how to communicate with your coworkers in the most convenient way possible. Researchers observed that distant employees who had work mates felt less alone and more fulfilled by their jobs throughout the pandemic. They also saw a direct link between social connection and productivity at work. Employee productivity remained relatively stable or enhanced after the transition to remote work. However, this did not apply to those who felt less connected to their colleagues, who were proven to be less productive and engaged.
Furthermore, according to one Gallup survey, remote employees who have professional connections are more happy, loyal, and less inclined to seek jobs elsewhere. Employees who have a strong sense of togetherness with their coworkers are more likely to take constructive activities that help the company.
Now, back to the question, how should you make friends when the circumstances are not as convenient as they used to be?
1 . Make Use of Virtual Background
When you work remotely, the chance is that video meetings will be your daily or weekly thing. Be it for weekly all hands-on or coordination meetings, let your virtual background intrigue your new coworkers. Some of the most popular video call applications, such as Zoom and Google Meet, provide a feature where you can set your background with a personalized image. When you turn your camera on and put on a customized background, such as the latest popular meme or your favorite gaming hero character, it may intrigue coworkers who like the same thing as you.
2 . Come Early
It is not a secret that online meetings can start late since everyone invited may not be present yet due to various reasons. While this can be a bit annoying, you can actually make use of this not-so-good habit to make friends. Arrive 5 minutes earlier than the assigned schedule (if the meeting room has been opened). While waiting for everyone to join, you can engage with your fellow co-workers who arrive earlier as well. This is the chance for you to have small talks or get to know them indirectly without having to set-up a personal meeting with them. When you do this, try to be creative in starting a convo, such as start by pointing out their virtual background (if they use any) and find something interesting to ask or simply ask about their days so far.
3 . Observe and Blend In
Life is not all about work; people have hobbies and most likely, your coworkers do too. If you want to make good friends, you can start observing your new coworkers’ interests and hobbies. This can include games, series or movies, music, sport teams, make-up and skin care routine, and so many more. Although a bit tricky, you can search their social media and see what they like. This way, you can gather topics for conversation instead of randomly guessing. Another easy way to know is to ask them right away and give your guess about their interest. It does not hurt to ask whether they play games you happen to be playing as well or whether they are keen about a certain Netflix series.
Timing is also important; it can feel weird to be asked about something as random as “Which team are you supporting tonight: Manchester City or Manchester United?” out of the blue. So, it is wise to start asking hobbies-related topics to one of your co-workers personally during an all-hands-on meeting. Send them private messages through Zoom or Slack (or other messaging apps you use in the office) during the casual weekly catch-ups, as this is usually the not-so-busy time of the week.
In the end, the easiest way to make friends is to show how you can be a good friend. The way you behave may just attract your coworkers towards you instead. Make an effort to get your coworkers to know, like, and trust you. Be dependable. Respond in a timely manner. Be courteous; right now, everyone could use a little more kindness.
Camaraderie feels odd when you cannot see each other face to face. However, a remote working system, on top of being ‘the new kid on the block’ should not stop you from being engaged with people you work with. Virtually put yourself out there. Make contact with your coworkers. Not all of them will reach back, which is fine, but some will, and those are the people you will want to keep in touch with.
image source: BRO vector via istockphoto