How do I build relationships with my team remotely?

Without happy hours or coffees, how do I connect with my colleagues?

Question submitted by Avha.

Have happy hour over Zoom! It sounds weird, but I literally had 2 of them today (times are very weird right now). The vibe is a bit different, because you have to schedule it, and you’re obviously sitting at home “alone”, but once you get into the swing of things it’s fun. I prefer to full-screen video and sit back a bit further than normal for these casual sessions, and we usually try to steer away from work topics (but we don’t outright ban them). Admittedly they are easier if you already have a relationship with folks, but I think you can start with 1:1 relationship building, and then once everyone in a “circle” has a baseline, you can ramp up into group chats as well.

Having other “social” connections through e.g. watercooler style Slack channels can also help. Having space where people can nerd out about baking bread, share photos of them shredding the gnar, whatever it might be – we’re humans, and humans like to interact, so it all helps.

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We have a bot that pairs people up for weekly coffee time and monthly pairing sessions. We also encourage Slack interaction and have weekly company video meetings, regular work-related book club and story time sessions, and more.

It’s really important to do as much of this as possible over video to close the gap on non-verbal signals. Everyone should turn on cameras when possible. Even a video feed alongside a screen sharing or remote pair programming session enhances the experience.


I used to work for a growing medium sized software company here in Toronto, that had an amazing workplace culture. When March hit, and we all had to start working from home, it was amazing how they still kept the workplace traditions alive. They would host yoga sessions over video chat, make daily meetings “themed”, and every Friday at 4pm, there would be like a happy hour on Google Hangouts.

Themed meetings sounds fun!! :slight_smile:

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