Maintaining work friendships in a virtual world

Reach out from your virtual bubble to stay connected with colleagues while in lockdown
by Bethan Rees


Having friends at work can be beneficial for many reasons, including productivity, creativity and a happy working life. But how do you maintain work friendships when employees are working from home?

Where there's a will ...“Humans are inherently social creatures, so this change has thrown off more than a few of us,” writes Elizabeth Gulino in a Refinery29 article. But it hasn’t stopped us from socialising, rather it has thrown up opportunities to do so in different ways, and to create friendships and reconnect with others.

Gulino quotes marriage and family therapist Moraya Seeger DeGeare, who says, “Believe it or not, now there are opportunities to have much more intimate connections because you’re being more intentional … I find that a lot of people are having much more intense friendships.” DeGeare explains that there’s a “community feeling” at the moment as a result of Covid-19.

Remote team-building

Team-building virtually is a “method of bringing remote teams together and creating a work environment that mimics a real office environment,” writes digital marketing specialist Brahim Jaouane in an article for Thrive Global. “It allows the entire team to get to know each other and create meaningful relationships that leave all your employees feeling more engaged and satisfied,” he writes.

Remote team-building can come in many forms. When working in an office, we can take for granted the small interactions we have with our colleagues, such as tea or coffee breaks, team meetings and lunchtimes. In a Forbes council post, Dr Joel M Rothaizer, CEO of Clear Impact Consulting Group, recommends meeting virtually “for what would otherwise be regular social rituals”. He continues: “Schedule a ‘coffee break’ where everyone is on a video platform and sit together with your cups of coffee or tea or whatever and just have a chat. Make it clear that this is meant to be a time for personal connection, rather than discussing work-related projects and tasks.”

He also adds that it’s important to check in on your colleagues on a more human level, rather than just discussing work. “If you’re a leader, it helps if you lead with your own vulnerability: ‘I’m feeling more disconnected/anxious/lonely. How are you doing?’ Begin each meeting with these human-to-human check-ins, whether it’s one-on-one or a team meeting,” Rothaizer writes.

Stay in touch

Various technologies enable us to stay connected with our work friends. Stay in touch via a messaging app and virtual platforms, but keep communication about work separate to your personal messages to your work colleagues. For example, keep all work chat to emails and only use messaging channels for personal chats. This will help separate your work life and social life, and stop the two from merging.

In the Business Insider article, Hadden writes about her work friends: “Although they don't change the work itself, having them around improved my mood on the days that seemed the hardest and the longest”. She says that she uses a video calling app to stay connected and calls her work friends “when our schedules allow during the times when we would normally hang out in the office – lunchtime and at the end of the workday”.

There are plenty of online games you can play with your work friends out of hours, too. Why not plan a company/team ‘pub quiz’ to play over a video call after work on a Friday? This will keep up communication, and hopefully be good fun.

How have you managed to stay connected with your friends at work? Leave your comments below.

Published: 07 May 2020
  • Training, Competence and Culture
  • Soft Skills
  • Fintech
  • Community
  • lockdown
  • Covid-19
  • work friendships
  • working from home
  • mental health

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