Don’t Feel Connected With Your Work Team? What To Do Next

Isolation at work can have serious repercussions for job performance. Here are the six things you should do to strengthen connection remotely.

portrait of Meg Embry
by Meg Embry

Published on March 22, 2022

Edited by Giselle M. Cancio
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Don’t Feel Connected With Your Work Team? What To Do Next


The office will never be the same.

In 2022, remote job advertisements are getting 300% more applications than in-office positions. Folks are quitting in record numbers in exchange for roles that offer more flexibility to work from home at least part of the time.

But when you're behind a screen all day, feeling connected to colleagues can be a big challenge. In fact, loneliness was one of the biggest struggles reported by remote workers in 2021.

That's because meaningful connections can be hard to make, even in the age of instant connection.

Why Does Connection Matter at Work?

You might think: I would totally trade connection with my coworkers for the chance to spend my days working from my couch next to my dog.

But research has found that feeling disconnected and lonely at work is bad for workplace performance. There are two reasons for that:

  1. Lonely people become less committed to their organization, and therefore less productive, and
  2. Lonely folks are often perceived as less approachable, which creates a recurring cycle of disconnection: the less connected you feel to your teammates, they less likely they are to reach out.

How to Connect with Remote Colleagues

The good news is, you can do something about it.

We asked nearly 100 employees, managers, and CEOs across industries what they've learned about building connections over the last two years of remote and hybrid work.

Here are six things they want you to start doing, right now.

1. Engage During Meetings

There's something about Zoom that makes it harder to speak up in meetings. You might hesitate, wondering: "Is what I'm about to say really worth the trouble of unmuting myself and putting my face front and center on everyone else's screen?"

"Meetings are your opportunity to be heard. Grab every opportunity to share your ideas in order to spark connections and conversations."

Speaking up can feel especially intimidating if you're new to your role. But it's important to contribute regardless, says Sonya Schwartz, managing editor of Her Aspiration.

"Meetings are your opportunity to be heard. Grab every opportunity to share your ideas in order to spark connections and conversations."

Often, the best contributions are actually questions. Ask for clarification, for examples, or for a follow-up. Your teammates will be grateful that you did –– they were probably quietly wondering the same thing.

2. Initiate Informal Hangouts

Schwartz tries to make speaking up in formal meetings easier by instituting regular informal meetings with her team.

"We hold a 'Friday Morning Coffee Family' on zoom. We drink our morning coffee and discuss our lives, what we're up to, and how we're feeling. Work discussions are strictly banned. This has really helped to restore some of those more personal aspects of working alongside your colleagues in the same office."

Some other good ideas for remote hangouts:

3. Make Relationships Routine

Face-to-face time is essential for personal connection, even if those faces are floating in a little Zoom square pretending not to be wearing day-three sweatpants.

"We need to be able to see each other as if we were sharing the same space," says Laura Berg, CRO of AskPet. "It increases productivity, builds trust and understanding, and is more engaging than phone calls or digital communication."

Commit to a one-on-one meeting each week with a different colleague. Come prepared with conversational prompts if you're not sure what to talk about. As your connection grows, chatting over Zoom will gradually feel more natural.

4. Show Up For Your Colleagues

Sometimes the best thing to do when we feel like our social needs aren't being met is to meet the needs of others. If you want to increase affiliation with your teammates, make sure to show up for them in intentional ways.

"You might be amazed how much of a difference it can make to have someone simply ask how you're doing and be genuinely interested in the answer."

"You might be amazed how much of a difference it can make to have someone simply ask how you're doing and be genuinely interested in the answer," said Matt Erhard, managing director at Summit Search Group.

"It's also very possible that you're not the only one feeling disconnected, so you'll be able to create more solidarity with others who are experiencing something similar."

5. Curate Collaboration

Teamwork makes the dream work, says IT Support Engineer Stephen Jackson –– especially in the tech industry.

"In a field where there is always someone more experienced than you, reach out and ask colleagues for advice. That way, you can strengthen your relationships and complete assignments at the same time."

It may seem counterintuitive to ask your colleagues for help. You're probably thinking: Isn't that annoying? Doesn't it make me look like I don't know what I'm doing?

Nope.

Research shows that asking people for advice makes a great impression on them. They will actually think you're super smart. After all, how else would you have pegged them as the expert?

"Engagement skyrockets when people are asked for their opinion, advice, or perspective," said Innovation Coach Kevin Strauss.

This kind of engagement makes us more invested, more committed –– even happier.

"And happy people do good things," said Strauss.

6. Enlist Your Supervisor

But sometimes, you just can't combat disconnectedness alone. If your team has slid into a culture of workplace loneliness, your individual efforts may not be enough to turn the tide.

If that's the case, don't hesitate to go to your supervisor, says Jackson. "Your supervisor should be your biggest cheerleader. Air out any grievances in a one-on-one meeting and ask for help."

At the end of the day, it's a supervisor's job to establish a community of communication, collaboration, and trust at work.

"When there is a variety of employees to manage, there can easily come a time when individuals start feeling alienated from their peers," agreed cybersecurity specialist Isla Sibanda. "Management should create regular initiatives to maintain strong relationships."

At the end of the day, it's a supervisor's job to establish a community of communication, collaboration, and trust at work.

Be assured that any efforts you make to build high-quality connections with your teammates will pay off in the long run, creating a climate that fosters creativity, trust, shared knowledge, and support.


Feature Image: Jasmin Merdan / Moment / Getty Images

Want to reenter the workforce? These seven tips cover applications, interviews, and more ways to ease the transition. Introverts thrive in careers that offer them a high degree of independence and self-reliance. Check out the best jobs for introverts. Extroverts are known for being outgoing, friendly, and people-oriented. The best "people person" jobs are those that allow you to interact with others.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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