How to make work friends when you work in a hybrid or remote environment

In 2018 research conducted by Gallup showed a concrete link between having a best friend at work and the amount of effort employees put into their job. The research also showed that those who have a best friend at work are seven times as likely to be engaged in their jobs, are better at engaging with customers, produce higher-quality work and have a greater sense of wellbeing.

There are other benefits of having friends at work, that not only benefit your employer, but your working life too. Research from the O.C. Tanner Institute shows that having a “work bestie” can increase your job satisfaction:

  • 81% of employees who have a best friend at work are satisfied with their life overall, compared to 73% who said they don’t have a best friend at work.
  • 75% of employees who have a best friend at work say they feel they’re able to take anything on, compared to 58% of those who don’t.

More companies than ever before in the UK are offering fully remote working or hybrid working. A recent McKinsey report showed that 20-25 percent of the workforces in advanced economies could work from home between three and five days a week without a loss of productivity. And, while many employees love the mix of hybrid working, or being fully remote, there are downsides, such as building relationships with colleagues.

How do you build work-place friendships when you are working in a hybrid environment, or even in a fully remote environment? Added to that, how do you build relationships when you are a new starter who has been virtually onboarded and only met colleagues online?

Let’s go ahead and acknowledge that making new friends as an adult can feel awkward sometimes. The good news is, it is possible and in this blog we show you how. With these tips there is no need to write off work friendships as another COVID casualty!


Take an interest in colleagues personal lives

Take an interest in your teammates as people. Take a couple of minutes during a meeting to connect on a personal level. Work is only one part of who people are. If you get to know people's other interests, it may give you a glimpse into what motivates them and you might find out you have something, other than work, in common.


Watch faces during video calls

Remember when you used to catch someone’s eye across the board room and realise you were both thinking the same thing about your manager’s lecture on time-keeping? That’s more challenging to recreate on Zoom, but making those connections isn’t impossible. Set your view to gallery mode, and watch your colleagues faces and backgrounds! 


Follow up on chat

Most organizations use a chat messaging service and this is your go-to medium for remote work friendships. It’s the remote equivalent of chatting by the coffee machine. A quick follow-up message is the perfect way to transition that virtual meeting into a longer conversation.


Coffee date

Not having an in-person office environment doesn’t mean you can’t have coffee catch up or get to know someone better. Meet-and-greet video calls are especially helpful if you’re new to a job or to a team. If you’re a line manager or team leader, you can ease this process by randomly pairing up team members for 15-minute monthly “coffee chats.”  Set the rule that people can talk about anything - except work!

If you make the business decision to take the time to get to know each other, it creates a less lonely culture because people feel supported.


Set up project groups

Project work is probably the place where you will get to know people the best. With large departmental meetings it can be challenging, especially if there are strong personalities, or egos that come into play. Often it is easier to get to know people in a smaller group. Think about setting up small project groups. Communication is essential in remote and hybrid working so, not only can this assist with project planning and delivery, you will get to know colleagues better. Spend time collaborating means chats and video calls and more opportunities to talk to colleagues.

When in the office

If and when you are in the office, don't limit conversations to email or formal meetings. Take the opportunity for a walking meeting. People tend to relax during a walk, which allows for more open discussion. Plus, not having a computer to interrupt you every second allows you to be more focused too. If there’s a colleague who has been especially helpful with your onboarding or working with your project, see if you can meet up at the office and have an informal coffee catch-up or lunch.

Thank You

With remote working, some of the more natural opportunities for praise – like thanking a colleague as you leave for the day, or shouting someone a morning coffee as a thanks for their help with a project – are missing. Most people like to be noticed for their hard work, so take a minute to send a text or an email letting someone know you appreciate them. 

Finally, feeling isolated at work can have a negative impact on your job performance. Connecting with other people at work is good for your mental health. For many of us, remote work is here to stay. Learning how to make friends in a remote work environment is a good skill to learn. Opportunities for connection are plentiful. Don’t overlook them.