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Connecting in the digital age: Building authentic relationships in today’s workplace


In the new modern workplace, the shift toward hybrid models brings both opportunities and hurdles. While workers can enjoy unprecedented flexibility, fostering team cohesion and camaraderie remains a challenge. For this reason, the need to build authentic relationships has never been more critical for people managers. Keep reading for some strategies and practical tips on cultivating genuine connections across teams.

7 tips to build authentic relationships and increase engagement

1. Be authentic yourself

Building authentic connections starts with being authentic yourself. The key is to approach interactions with genuine curiosity, conveying a sincere interest in others. A practical way to achieve this is by asking questions that demonstrate a desire to get to know your colleagues better. And remember — you don’t have to connect with everyone. If you’re not a “people person,” focus on fostering relationships with those you work closest with.

2. Be purposeful about in-person interactions

Some employers assume that bringing people to the office will naturally result in collaboration and team-building, but the truth is, no matter whether your team is on-site, off-site, or on a hybrid schedule, you have to be intentional about building trust and a cohesive team culture.

For hybrid teams, being on-site should be about elevating what you’re already doing remotely — including team building. You and your team should already be building relationships with each other daily.

When you get the opportunity to meet on-site, be purposeful with what you’re meeting about. This way, you can make sure your team members are excited to participate and you get the most out of your face-to-face time. If your team doesn’t get to meet in person very often, use the on-site day as a team-building opportunity to make the trip more impactful.

3. Remember to be human

It’s important to remember that even in a 100% digital environment, the workplace is first and foremost made up of people. Don’t forget your interacting with individuals — not screens. How we conduct ourselves in a real-life meeting should serve as the model for virtual meetings.

Whether you’re remote or in the office, start your smaller meetings by asking how everyone is doing. On Mondays, inquire about the past weekend, and on Fridays, ask team members to share if they have any existing plans. For more intimate-sized virtual meetings, reconsider the practice of keeping everyone on mute, which can prevent spontaneous interactions from occurring, oftentimes creating awkward silences instead.

4. One-on-ones are non-negotiable

One-on-one sessions are more than just routine check-ins; they serve as dedicated time to foster meaningful connections with our team members. No matter how experienced or on top of your work your associates are, these meetings provide a valuable opportunity for open conversations and building rapport. Here are some tips for making the most of your one-on-one face time:

  • Dedicate your full attention (put your phone on silent) to show genuine interest.
  • Open up about your personal experiences to create a sense of camaraderie.
  • Ask questions that go beyond just work; inquire about their weekend plans, family, hobbies, and other interests.
  • Take the time to acknowledge their wins both inside and outside of work.
  • Express your gratitude for their efforts and contributions.
  • Find out how you can support them in overcoming both professional and personal challenges.

5. Master the art of the virtual hangout

One of the most important parts of adapting to a digital workplace is replicating watercooler chat in a virtual setting. The options for team communication platforms seem virtually endless these days. When you create your virtual hangout spot, make sure you have a clear purpose for the space.

For example, is it a place where everyone can feel more relaxed and casual? Create some prompts regularly to set the tone — for example, ask everyone to share their kids’ back-to-school photos, favorite pictures of their pets, or what they did over the weekend.

6. Get creative with your virtual meetings

There’s no one way to hold a virtual meeting. Add some variety to your remote gatherings in the following ways:

  • Encourage video-off walking meetings, so everyone can enjoy the beautiful weather outside while chatting.
  • Consider testing platforms that offer virtual events you can do with your remote team on a regular basis. You can choose from yoga and “deskercise” classes to trivia experiences and cooking classes.
  • For bigger team meetings, have team members take turns hosting, adding icebreakers and games of their choice to spice things up and encourage people to come out of their shells.

7.   Encourage collaboration calls

Just as in life, it’s the little moments that foster genuine connections in the workplace. You don’t have to hold one-hour meetings to build authentic relationships. Break down silos by promoting short yet impactful collaboration calls or “office hours” with one’s colleagues, even those in other departments.

Additionally, encourage your team members to engage spontaneously outside formal meetings — for example, giving kudos, sharing ideas, or simply asking how someone’s day is going — by messaging, texting, or even picking up the phone. As leaders, emphasize the value of these impromptu connections in cultivating a warm and supportive workplace culture.

Summing it all up

As tough as it might be, developing authentic relationships isn’t just a nice to have, it’s imperative to fostering a cohesive, productive team. By incorporating the tips above, you can take the first steps toward building the ideal workplace. For more performance strategies, download our free e-book, The Insperity guide to employee retention.