Part of starting a new job is the excitement of meeting your co-workers and making new connections. But with so much of the workforce continuing to work from home, joining a new team remotely can have its own set of challenges. Without the face-to-face interactions you’d normally have in company meetings or at team lunches, bonding with your new team members through a computer screen can be difficult.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to create real connections with your new colleagues even if you’re working remotely, says Risa Mish, J.D., a professor of management at Cornell University. “The virtual context may lengthen the amount of time it would normally take to form relationships” she explains, “But if you put the effort in, those relationships will happen.”
Here are five tips Mish recommends to help you break the ice:
1. Introduce yourself at the first meeting
Keep in mind that everyone on the team has their own work streams and to-do lists, and they might not assume that the new face on the Zoom call wants to speak up. “Consider asking your boss if it would be okay to introduce yourself to the team at the first virtual meeting,” Mish suggests. “Then plan a quick introduction that includes not just where you worked before, but also a few items that might spark a connection with someone else on the team, such as where you grew up or what you like to do for fun outside of work.”
2. Look for micro-interactions
Getting close with co-workers takes time, so it’s important to remember that simply making the introduction is important. Whether over a virtual lunch break or a quick Zoom to chat in between meetings, prioritize short conversations that help you familiarize yourself with the team. “Start small, with micro-interactions of 15 minutes or less,” Mish recommends. “Build the relationship from there.”
3. Find common ground
Connecting over a common interest or background item can be a great way to reach out to someone and spark a conversation. Mish suggests taking a look at who in the company shares a hometown or an alma mater with you, for example. Starting a casual conversation over a shared hobby or upbringing can be a great way to connect about non-work topics.
4. Suggest a follow-up chat
If a meeting is winding down, don’t be afraid to speak up and suggest a follow-up chat before everyone jumps to another call. Mish suggests laying the groundwork with something like: “‘If anyone would be up for a 15-minute coffee chat sometime this week, I’d welcome the chance to schedule something and get to know you better.’” It might feel daunting to extend the invite, but chances are your co-workers will be happy you did.
5. Have some patience
Finally, remember that cultivating meaningful relationships can take time — and should take time. After the challenging year that’s asked so many of us to make changes to our day-to-day routines, it’s only natural that it might take time to connect. “It’s been a very long year for everyone, and your co-workers may be sapped of the energy needed to take the initiative to socialize,” Mish explains. “Have patience and assume good intentions.”
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