Hybrid work: 4 ways to strengthen relationships

Forging strong work relationships can be more challenging for hybrid or remote teams. Consider these tips to keep connections alive
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More of us are working remotely or hybrid than ever before, and the benefits are clear: better work-life balance, less travel and a smaller carbon footprint, and more flexibility, to name just a few.

There are days, however, when hybrid workers can feel disconnected. They see their teammates’ faces on the screen but miss the energy and culture they once experienced daily at the office.

Here are four things my team and I do to keep our connection strong, wherever we are working:

1. Create more social moments

You don’t need a communal kitchen, sofa, or water cooler to catch up with your teammates, but you do need to get creative. When you start the first meeting every week, ask your team how they are: “How’s your week looking? Is it a busy one? What will be the most important or interesting days for you?” Better still: “Is there anything I can help you with?” Everyone loves to hear that one.

[ Related read: 3 ways to foster team connections in a hybrid workplace. ]

By Friday, you can reflect on the week and ask about each other’s weekend plans. Also consider setting aside some time for an afternoon video social. Play a game, or have your team members prepare quickfire presentations about their hobbies or share other interesting details about themselves that their teammates wouldn’t necessarily know.

Don’t feel like you always have to do something special – often just a virtual space where people can drop in and shoot the breeze is all that is needed to boost morale. No agenda can sometimes be the perfect agenda for the moment.

2. Leave no teammate behind

One of the biggest annoyances for people working remotely is being left out of meetings. When you can’t physically scan the office to make sure everyone’s on the invite it’s easy to inadvertently overlook someone – but it’s just as easy to solve this problem. If you don’t already have one, create a team messaging channel that has openness and inclusivity. No one likes to be left out. In the digital age, there’s no excuse.

3. Know your communication style and manage it with smarts

Effective listening is key to building successful relationships, and video meetings highlight how skilled or unskilled each of us is in this department. When it comes to communication style, people tend to fall into one of two camps:

Task-oriented folks are great at raising questions, moving the conversation along, and making decisions. Their primary aim is to get things done; however, they’re more likely to interrupt others and engage in conflict to get there.

Facilitative-oriented people want all team members to feel valued and invite everyone to contribute. They also prefer diplomacy rather than going head-to-head and are more likely to compromise. Their main objective is to get along with others.

Ramp up active listening by using gallery view in your video meetings and give everyone equal space on the screen.

Once you know which style you favor, you can start to operate more mindfully with your peers, adapting your style to improve how you get along. If you are a man with a task-oriented style, for example, be careful not to “he-peat,” or repeat an idea put forward by a woman. Meanwhile, all team members should be mindful not to “G-peat,” a term coined by millennials for Gen X and Z colleagues who repeat and take credit for their ideas.

Another way to ramp up active listening is to opt for gallery view in all your video meetings, ideally on a device that automatically finds and frames everyone’s face and gives everyone equal space on the screen. Improving visual equity like this helps regulate turn-taking and makes it much harder for any one person to dominate the room.

4. Consider the noise level in your background

If you’re juggling the demands of work and family life all under one roof, find a way to improve your audio. Save your teammates’ ears by investing in devices that suppress disruptive background noise at the touch of a button while ensuring your voice remains crystal clear. The best devices on the market cancel out background noise but leave in your subtle communication sounds. These can be useful indicators of how well a conversation is going when you can’t pick up on subtle in-person body language cues.

High-performance audio also unlocks more options for you regarding where you work. Cafés and other dynamic communal spaces become viable options when you take charge of your sound. There is a saying, “a change is as good as a rest.” Where would you like to work from to mix things up and get inspired?

Better remote working rapport starts today

Take stock of your environment, tech, and individual and team habits. With the right approach and a bit of imagination, your hybrid teams will thrive.

[ Want more advice on leading hybrid work? Read What is a hybrid work model? and Hybrid work model: 5 advantages. ]

As CEO of Neat, Simen Teigre is the driving force behind the company's vision to create a fantastic video communications experience. He's an accomplished leader with vast experience in the video collaboration industry.