laptop with videoconference call

Building Rapport in a Virtual Workplace

Working in a virtual workplace has many benefits, but it can also make it more difficult to build rapport with your colleagues.

Building rapport and forming strong relationships is a vital skill for anyone wishing to build a successful career, regardless of industry. With all or most of our interactions occurring via Zoom, Google Meet, and Slack, the tools and strategies associated for creating and sustaining rapport have changed.

Being able to connect with people in a virtual setting could be just what you need to set yourself apart from your peers and take your career to the next level.

That said, building rapport virtually is a challenge; one many of us are unaccustomed to. By definition, rapport is the act of building trust and understanding. It is going beyond surface level connection and the walls of the office to really get to know someone as a person. It’s something that took work and dedication when we saw each other every day at our desks and in the hallways of the office, and it’s something that takes twice the work now that we don’t.

But it is possible.

Turn Your Camera On

Our brains are hardwired to respond to people’s faces. That’s why you feel a certain type of way when you see your high school crush’s updated Facebook profile picture and a very different type of way when the leader of your favorite team’s rival comes across your feed (talking about you, LeBron).

It’s also why you should be communicating as much as possible via video chat. Holding meetings and one-on-ones with the camera on builds credibility and gives you the ability to use non-verbal cues like facial expressions and hand movements to better relay your message.

Video chat tells people you care about them and that they are worth your time and deserving of your focus. They can see for themselves you are giving them 100% of your attention and not half-listening while practicing your crocheting at the same time.

So turn your camera on! Show people you care by showing them your face.

Ask Questions

One of the worst habits you can develop when talking to coworkers is getting so focused on what you need to say that you forget to ask questions. Questions uncover problems, unlock creativity, and encourage an atmosphere of constant learning and innovation.

Questions are also the best way to get to know someone. It is impossible to build rapport without them. Every time you talk to a teammate, start with questions. Ask about their day, their family, their weekend. Find out what they’re doing in their spare time, what they’re binge watching tonight, or where their dream vacation destination is.

Every time you ask a sincere question, you strengthen a relationship.

Talk When You Want To, Not Just When You Have To

Too much workplace communication happens on a “need to” basis and not a “want to” one. This has become even more true as we’ve shifted to remote work. Now that we only ever see each other in meetings, we’ve lost a critical piece of relationship building: unprompted conversation.

So how do we fix this problem considering telecommuting is here to stay?

You might consider scheduling group breaks where the whole team can jump on a Zoom call at the same time with no agenda. Work talk is prohibited. Laughter and lighthearted disagreements over whether or not Luke Skywalker could beat Harry Potter in a fight are encouraged.

Add a ‘Just For Fun’ Slack Channel

Slack doesn’t have to just be a place for important workplace conversations. It can also be a place to share random internet gems, your favorite memes, and unbelievable sports highlights (talking about you again, LeBron).

If you don’t have one already, create a new Slack channel for your team or business to talk about the unimportantly important things.

Engaging in this channel gives you a more intimate look into your colleagues interests, hobbies, and sense of humor, all of which are necessary components of long-lasting relationships.

Get Together (Safely)

Slowly but surely, we’re returning to the office. In masks and with borderline-reckless amounts of hand sanitizer, sure. But we’re going back.

Which brings us to perhaps the best way to build rapport virtually, which is: break free of the virtual and get together in person.

Now, you’re probably thinking, “Isn’t that kind of paradoxical?” Yes. Yes it is. But is it true? Yes. Yes it is.

Between coronavirus restrictions and remote workers living in different states (or countries), I get that it isn’t possible for everyone to plan face-to-face time. But where it is, take advantage of it. Plan a team lunch at a park or use tools like Tactic to schedule meeting time in one of your office’s conference rooms so you can get together while staying safe.

Because at the end of the day, no amount of virtual interaction can replace the benefits of in-person face time.

Hopefully this list has made you realize that, although building rapport virtually is a new challenge for many of us, it isn’t insurmountable. With the right tools and a little extra effort, you can create relationships with colleagues that will survive anything life chooses to throw at them, including a global pandemic.