1. Virtual communication
  2. Scheduled virtual meetings/check ins
  3. Virtual coffee breaks/lunch
  4. Virtual team building activities and events
  5. Online discussion groups
  6. Project collaboration
  7. Networking opportunities
  8. Mentor programs
If there was one positive thing to come out of a few pandemic-induced years of chaos, it’s remote working. This new age concept has completely redefined what it means to “work” in the modern era, with greater focus on flexibility, work-life balance and home-based work. With 42% of Australian workplaces offering hybrid work arrangements*, employees have some flexibility when it comes to choosing when they would like to venture into the office.  We know full well that relationships are the currency of business, and therein lies the challenge for many employees working from home. With the days of ‘water cooler chats’ becoming a distant memory for some, employees are left wondering how to connect with colleagues when working from home. With unprecedented autonomy comes the unprecedented challenge of connecting with a decentralised workforce. Whether you’re a remote worker, a new employee joining a remote team, or a hybrid worker trying to maintain in-person and virtual connections, there’s something to learn about maximising our connections.  Join us as we explore the winning strategies to strengthen your team connections, cohesion and comradery in the remote age.  Let’s talk teamwork Steve Jobs once said, “the strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” This sentiment echoes studies that have shown that a strong team paves the way for enormous organisational benefits. Companies who prioritise teamwork and collaboration are five times more likely to experience employment growth, twice as likely to increase profits, and twice as likely to outperform competing businesses. Sure, teamwork is highly beneficial for the company, but what about the individual?  Well, when it comes to maximising our experience and our marketability, teamwork is pivotal.  Through close collaboration and strong professional bonds, individuals are poised to experience:  Greater innovation and better ideas – through the contribution of different strengths, talents and perspectives. Greater workplace engagement – through solid workplace bonds and prosperous partnerships. This fosters positive communication, increased morale and workplace productivity.  Professional growth – through peer encouragement and feedback. A supportive team culture helps to empower employees to improve and develop their skills.  Positive risk-taking – through an environment founded on collaboration, shared responsibility, experimentation and growth.  Healthy risk-taking and the contribution of ‘out of the box’ ideas, is far more likely for team-based employees who feel the support of a strong team behind them.  We know that “great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.” With this in mind, it’s more important than ever to know how to connect with colleagues when working from home. Interested in current job openings and pay rates? Check out Robert Half’s dedicated Jobs Page How to connect with colleagues when working from home Nicole Gorton, workplace expert and director at Robert Half, says remote work has changed the face of working relationships. She says, “despite a plethora of benefits, working from home has its challenges. In my experience, these conditions lead some employees to feel disconnected and isolated.” “Strong relationships are paramount - teams and individuals must be proactive in maintaining consistent communication and considered connections”, says Nicole.  If you’re looking to make your virtual connections as strong as your physical ones, take note of our top strategies:  Virtual communication  While working arrangements have shifted post-pandemic, a recent LinkedIn survey found that most office-based employees continue to work from home two or three days a week. It’s clear that embracing virtual communication is no longer optional, it’s simply essential. If you’re wondering how to connect with colleagues when working from home, start by bolstering your virtual communication.  Andrew Brushfield, director Robert Half says, “it’s not enough to sit at your computer all day hoping you’ll feel connected to your workmates – you need to enlist your own accountability and effort to nurture those relationships.” Embracing virtual communication will go a long way in strengthening relationships and maintaining interpersonal interactions from afar. Actively seek to:  Use video calls over emails – to foster face-to-face interactions. Leverage communication tools – to promote communication and connection. Tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams are ideal for creating discussion channels. Encourage open communication – to share thoughts, concerns and ideas to build transparency, trust and strong relationships.  Recognise achievements - acknowledge and celebrate team achievements, even if it's via a virtual applause or a virtual recognition badge.  Keep up with conversation – stay informed about your colleagues' lives outside of work. Show genuine interest in their well-being, interests and life events and take the time to listen to their responses.  Be big on small talk – whether it’s a direct team member, client or stakeholder, make a conscious effort to lead initial conversations and make everyone feel comfortable, valued and at ease.  Scheduled virtual meetings/check ins With less physical face-to-face time than ever before, it’s important to maximise the time you share with your team. Scheduled meetings (both one-on-ones and team meetings) are a great way to touch base, share updates, and maintain a sense of unity. They also go a long way in strengthening the healthy functioning of your team by keeping everyone engaged, happy and productive.  Check-in sessions are equally important, offering a virtual space for colleagues to be truly heard. With the primary goal of listening, these check-ins help to reaffirm to your colleagues that you care about their experience and how they are feeling. The simple act of allocating personal check-in time speaks volumes!  Virtual coffee breaks/lunches Office workplaces are filled with spontaneous moments of connection. From coffee breaks to lunch dates, there are so many interactions that allow for casual conversation, work breaks and the growth of personal connection.  Although working from home doesn’t allow for the same physical connection, there is certainly bandwidth to mimic these spontaneous interactions.  If you’re wondering how to connect with colleagues when working from home, look for deliberate ways to keep things casual.  Setting aside time for virtual coffee breaks and/or lunches is a wonderful wave to weave casual catch ups into your day and build the personal connections that can often feel neglected when working remotely.  These intentional interactions go a long way in restoring a sense of normality to changed working conditions. Simply schedule a break in your calendar, BYO coffee or lunch, and watch your connections (and your mood) blossom!   Virtual team building activities and events Connection is an essential part of a productive team and it’s the very reason that fuels a company’s willingness to deploy team building activities and events. While in person team building can be both expensive and extravagant, it’s quite the opposite in the remote realm. Even the most basic events can help to foster a sense of community and fun.  Knowing how to connect with colleagues when working from home is important when it comes to restoring a sense of light-heartedness. Encourage your team to take part in virtual team building activities and events and get ready to share a laugh!  Some of our Robert Half favourites include:  Quizzes Trivia Virtual talent shows Online escape rooms Virtual happy hour  Dress up/themed meetings Virtual cooking classes  Company book clubs Virtual workouts Online discussion groups  Slack and Microsoft Teams are wonderful tools for creating different discussion channels. While tools like these are great for keeping everyone focused on the tasks at hand, they are also ideal for keeping online discussions flowing.  Consider introducing a ‘water cooler channel’ that employees can drop in to when they need a momentary ‘brain break’. These forums provide a space for light-hearted chat - team members can ask how their day is going, post funny memes or news, and ask any burning questions.  These virtual groups can even be created on the basis of hobbies or interests so that team members have a designated place to engage about their outside interests. Facilitating conversation on the basis of topics like sport, music or books, could help to create lasting connections and memorable experiences.  Project collaboration Shared goals and objectives help to unify your team through aligned focus and common purpose.  Collaborating on projects, contributing ideas and supporting one another in the achievement of deadlines, can aid in boosting team morale and productivity.  Project collaboration is an integral and often inevitable part of connecting with colleagues when working from home. To maximise the experience, be sure to leverage visual collaboration software.  These tools enhance collaboration capabilities through features that mimic the in-person experience. Think Google spreadsheets and real time edits or, MURAL, the online whiteboard experience making team brainstorming and mind-mapping possible from anywhere! With the emergence of new visual collaboration technology, it’s important to stay abreast of any new developments that will help you to optimise your home-based collaborations.  Networking opportunities It may come as a surprise that remote work can yield networking opportunities.  Take the time to investigate whether your organisation offers opportunities to join any associated professional development groups. While the new age of networking may be online, there still may be viable opportunities to network and connect with like-minded colleagues or industry professionals.  Mentor programs A mentor could be one of your most important business relationships. The opportunity to learn from someone who has succeeded in their field is truly invaluable - it is not something that should be sacrificed on account of remote working.   Be proactive and speak to your employer (or your ideal mentor) about opportunities for virtual mentorship. Flesh out the possibilities around learning opportunities and skill development in the virtual environment.  Once confirmed, schedule the nominated virtual check-ins so you can be on the path to expanding your knowledge and smashing your career goals.   It can’t be argued that the professional landscape has shifted significantly post pandemic. While hybrid and remote working is now considered our ‘new normal’, many still grieve the interpersonal connection of office-based work. As such, many professionals question how to connect with colleagues when working from home.  Connection won’t happen overnight – it’s a process that takes time, effort and considered action. However, personal commitment is sure to pay dividends in fostering connections, maintaining a sense of belonging and promoting a positive work experience in spite of physical separation.    Robert Half can help Need some extra assistance? Explore our range of tools and career advice resources or upload your resume online and we’ll be in touch.  Be sure to check out Robert Half’s 2023 Salary Guide for the salary data and insights that matter to you! *The study is developed by Robert Half and was conducted online in June 2023 by an independent research company, surveying 300 hiring managers, including 100 CFOs and 100 CIOs, from companies across Australia. This survey is part of the international workplace survey, a questionnaire about job trends, talent management, and trends in the workplace.