I miss conversations at work. The casual in-the-hallway or stop-by-someone’s-desk-to-say-hi conversations that jump from sports to movies to food to work.

These exchanges deepen relationships. They build trust. They provide information. They are an entry point for building connections and for problem solving.

These casual conversations are not time-wasters. They are keys to teamwork, productivity and innovation. I like to see organic conversations happening, and I use their presence as a barometer for a healthy, engaged team. Conversations act like big cities, exposing us to new ideas, both professionally and personally. They are amazing creative exercises that encourage people to learn how to listen, how to interject, and how to change the direction of the conversation. 

We are a social species and we like to be with people. We are making do with screen-based communications, and seeing people is much more personal than a conference call. However, video meetings do not replicate how people interact in person. We miss nonverbal cues. Plus, for many, there is a pressure to “perform socially” which can be difficult to maintain. Projecting a positive attitude through eye contact with a camera while not looking directly at a person is downright hard.

Our need to connect is still relevant even though we are suffering from Zoom fatigue. I suggest taking time to talk to a few folks in your work orbit who are not part of your regular day-to-day meeting schedule. Call just to say hello.

Building professional relationships and connections depends on good old old-fashioned business etiquette. Good behavior is about respect, being prepared and treating people equally, so remember to:  

  • use video and phone more than email or text.
  • be on time.
  • practice smiling, asking questions, being positive, and complimenting others sincerely.
  • no browsing on your phone or laptop while on a phone or video call.
  • apologize if you make a blunder.
  • figure out how to respond to personal questions that you do not want to answer if you are a private person. You do not want to come across as unfriendly.

Don’t let COVID negatively impact your professional networking, either inside or outside of your place of employment. Practice your conversation skills.

Chit-chat is not inconsequential.