Navigating remote relationships can be tricky, but it’s certainly not impossible. While you won’t get in-person water-cooler breaks and weekly lunches together at the local deli, there are still plenty of ways to forge friendships with your remote coworkers.

A big part of any relationship is time. Don’t expect to be best friends with your remote team within a week of meeting them (digitally, of course). However, if you’re willing to put in the hours and the effort, you might be surprised at just how strong of a friendship you can form.

So where to start? We’ve got a few tips and pointers to implement when you’re wanting to get more out of your job than just a paycheck. After all, it’s the people you work with that can make or break a job.

Always start your conversations with friendly introductions.

No one wants to start every day, or every conversation for that matter, with just business talk. If you’re starting your first chat with a coworker during the work day, ask how they’ve been before you break into business. You might want to ask them how their weekend went, if they’re planning anything exciting for the upcoming holiday, or if they caught the news this morning.

It may seem a little awkward at first, but all friendships have to start somewhere. Smalltalk will allow you to learn more about your remote colleagues and the more frequently you both discuss your lives outside of work, the more fodder you’ll have for developing your friendship in the future.

Don’t be afraid of sending a meme, gif, or emoji.

There’s something about memes, gifs, and emojis that instantly puts everyone on the same page. They’re also helpful when good or bad news strikes and you want to share in the camaraderie of those feelings with your entire team. Remember, these are your coworkers now, so it’s OK to move past the formalities you felt during the hiring process.

Whether it’s through a group chat, an email chain, or any other means of digital communication your team uses, throwing in a hilarious gif, heartfelt emoji, or perfectly executed meme is always bound to lighten the mood and bring you closer to your colleagues.

When your colleagues are in town, try your best to meet up with them.

While some remote workers may never step foot in the city of one of their remote colleagues, there are many that will. Whether it’s for business or personal travel, people find themselves all over the globe for every reason imaginable. Make sure your team knows where you’re located, and be sure to extend the invitation for coffee or lunch should any of them ever be in a nearby radius.

Even if it’s just a quick thirty-minute meeting, the face-to-face interaction will give you a totally new reading on your coworker, and it will help cement a strong relationship with you both even when you’re back on other sides of the state, country, or continent.

Get to know your coworkers beyond their professional roles.

When it comes down to it, strengthening your relationships with your remote coworkers is going to come down to how much effort you put into getting to know them. Ultimately, you can’t forge friendships without knowing what makes up the other person, be that hobbies, likes, dislikes, family, etc.

One great way to learn more about your coworkers in a non-obtrusive but still personal way is to ask your remote employer to set up weekly or bi-monthly video calls where employees are paired up in groups of two. The one rule of these calls? You can talk about anything but business.

Looking for some more ways to build community in a remote business? Talk to your employer about implementing one of these five team building exercises for remote teams!

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