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How to build good colleague relationships in a hybrid workplace

Remote working in the UK has exploded over the last few years. All driven by improvements in technology and boosted by lockdown restrictions. In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, 4.7% of UK employees worked from home. In 2022, according to ONS, a quarter (25%) of employees worked from home at least some of the time.

Although the number of people working from home decreased by 14% from 2022 to 2023, hybrid working patterns remain popular among professionals. Workers in the highest income band, those with degrees, are most likely to report home-only or hybrid work. An estimated 44% of workers work from home at least some of the time (hybrid or full-time remote).

Research shows that hybrid working models have increased positivity and effectiveness for many employees. Yet, despite the positives that many hybrid and remote workers report, there are some clear negatives. Over half (67%) of workers feel less connected to their colleagues when working from home.

One in five workers struggles with loneliness when working from home. According to Gallup, having a ‘best friend’ at work can lead to higher job satisfaction and better performance, especially in hybrid and remote settings. For this reason, good colleague relationships in a hybrid environment are key.

 Building relationships in person is far simpler and more effective. It can also make the working week more enjoyable, and hybrid workers can miss out on this. Keeping up with team members split across home and office can make you feel out of the loop. While some employers are good at creating an inclusive work environment, others are not.

Hybrid communication challenges

Whether you were in the office before the pandemic or have joined a new workplace, a hybrid model is more complex than a remote one. Building a rapport with colleagues remotely is difficult. Nowadays, working in a team often entails dealing with both office and remote workers.

Virtual meeting challenges

Many people will experience you in your virtual form (that may be the only version of you they meet and work with). It is often difficult to maintain interest and attention in virtual meetings. Highlighting your best qualities and demonstrating your skills in online meetings can be difficult.

Getting started

When you work hybrid, building workplace relationships can be difficult. To start with, create a schedule or approach for determining your office days. Ensure you have dedicated time for collaboration, meetings, and projects. This routine will help you set colleagues' expectations and help manage team deadlines.

Make the most of your time in the office

Working in the office is a great opportunity to build relationships. Team activities, training, and meetings on in-office days can help you connect with colleagues, which is important for collaboration, productivity, and company culture. Working together in person helps colleagues communicate more efficiently. This builds trust and understanding.

Use your office days for tasks that need face-to-face interaction. This includes brainstorming sessions, team meetings, and collaborative projects. Being present enables real-time collaboration, ideation, and decision-making. While it can be easy to spend the day at your desk, take breaks during office days to recharge and have lunch or coffee with colleagues.

Manager tips for building work relationships

As a manager of hybrid workers, communication and collaboration can be difficult. Hybrid workers don’t always have access to resources and rely on others for guidance. Here are some tips for building work relationships with your team members in your hybrid work model.

  • Engagement: Ensure remote employees are engaged with the team so they can share their knowledge with others.
  • Give feedback: Provide regular feedback via email or calls.
  • Communication: It’s important to keep the lines of communication open so that everyone feels included and connected, whether they’re physically there or not.
  • Meetings: Use your employee’s preferred office days for one-on-one meetings. Remote workers may struggle with virtual meeting engagement. Team and longer meetings are best when employees are in the office for face-to-face meetings. Breaks within these meetings enable the team to speak to each other in ways that they can’t in virtual meetings.
  • Support: Build strong relationships through consistent interaction.

Tips to build good colleague relationships

  • Effective communication: Combine digital and in-person tools to stay connected with colleagues, ensuring clarity and building trust.
  • Respect flexibility: Acknowledge and respect different working styles and patterns in a hybrid environment to aid understanding.
  • Team engagement: Participate in team meetings and social events, virtual and in-person, to create a sense of community and strengthen relationships.

Hybrid work relationships

Building strong colleague relationships is possible in a hybrid environment. But it does take effort. Although face-to-face interaction better supports rapport building, hybrid environments need you to bridge digital divides.

Effective communication, respecting diverse work patterns, and engaging in virtual and in-person settings, can enable you to build meaningful colleague relationships.

Embracing office days for team activities and meetings strengthens these bonds, contributing to a collaborative and more enjoyable work environment despite the physical distance.

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