No more forgotten hires: How HR can help remote workers build relationships

What are the key components to a successful relationship? Trust, communication, and familiarity.

No more forgotten hires: How HR can help remote workers build relationships

What are the key components to a successful relationship? Trust, communication, and familiarity. If you’re spending five days a week with the same people, for example colleagues, you’re likely to build a good, solid relationship with them. It’s no surprise then that remote working has created challenges for relationships between colleagues ‘ especially for those who’ve just started a new job and can only meet their team on video calls.

As working from home looks likely to stay ‘ at least part of the time ‘ companies need to look at the implications remote working has had on workplace relationships and find a way to navigate the challenges working from home has created.

Newbies are struggling the most with relationship building

The overnight move to full-time remote working in 2020 was difficult for everyone to adjust to, but it’s another thing entirely to face if you’re the new joiner at a fully remote business. According to our recent report, Forgotten hires: How to get onboarding right, which surveyed 1,000 UK-based employees who started a new job remotely between March 2020 and February 2021, more than half (54%) of employees surveyed said they have found that building relationships with colleagues while working at home difficult. 

Likewise, younger new starters have found it particularly difficult when starting a new job remotely. Our study also found that more than three in five (62%) of 18 to 24-year-olds found that working from home made it harder to start a new job, compared with 53% of workers aged over 35-years-old.  

These numbers won’t be a huge shock to anyone who’s worked remotely in the past year. Many will have had the experience of video calls being focused on transactional, work task-related matters rather than more casual, social interactions that people may naturally have when passing by each other within an office environment. Among the qualitative responses to our survey, one person even remarked I don’t know if anyone has legs in my office at the minute as I haven’t physically met anyone.

What role can HR play?

The findings make it clear that hybrid working ‘ rather than full-time remote (or office-based) working ‘ is going to be an important factor in ensuring employee collaboration and engagement, especially for new starters. Business and HR leaders now have an opportunity to reframe and reimagine how their company and office should run, and its essential they listen to and respond to their people’s views to inform these changes rather than making assumptions about how employees would like things to operate. There’s not much point sending all people back to the office just for the sake of being present, and businesses and HR teams should think about how the space can be used in a more collaborative, creative and social way to ensure people’s face-to-face time is used most productively and beneficially.

HR professionals also need to take the lead and help colleagues, particularly new employees, embed in a 360-degree way in the company’s culture. For example, they could encourage new starters to participate in cross-department committees and whole company activities to ensure they’re exposed to the company’s social side and all the people within it. If not in place already, implementing employee engagement apps, like Totem, is another useful means of ensuring people feel part of a company’s culture and can interact with colleagues in a more social-led environment.

Taking responsibility for the wellbeing of younger professionals should also be a high priority of HR professionals. JPMorgan, for example has offered virtual boxing lessons and ‘escape room’ games to junior members of the bank. HR professionals should think of similar strategies to ensure younger recruits are engaged and looked after by their firm.

With remote and hybrid working the new normal for many companies, HR and management teams need to ensure their approaches and policies adapt with these changes and listen to their people’s needs if they want to attract, engage and retain their talent. It’s important that HR leaders actively work to help re-build workplace relationships, regardless of where people are working, and ensure new starters feel settled quickly. The components of a good relationship are: trust, communication, and familiarity, and HR leaders need to foster these in a hybrid world of working.

Marcus Thornley
Marcus Thornley

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