The Art of Building Remote Work Relationships

Kristin Sullivan
March 6, 2024

I have been working from home almost as long as I have worked in a traditional office setting. I loved working in an office and always enjoyed water cooler banter rehashing the latest HBO series. But now that so many of us work exclusively from home, those interactions don't occur or happen differently. With that comes the challenge of building meaningful relationships in a virtual space. Building remote work relationships requires intention, communication, and a commitment to making connections and creating rapport in virtual environments.  Read along for my suggestions on how to build rapport with your virtual team.

Establish Communication Channels for Virtual Teams

A woman is looking at her computer screen and waving to her remote work community.

Success in the workplace can often be directly related to creating and maintaining good relationships with colleagues. Communication is vital to any successful relationship. It takes more effort to create rapport in virtual environments than it does in person. While a remote work community doesn’t allow for conversation at the water cooler or break room, there are many ways to foster strong relationships with your virtual team.

Use Collaboration Tools: Implement collaboration tools to facilitate project management, file sharing, real-time collaboration, and chat. Tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Asana can enhance productivity and teamwork.

Creating Rapport in Virtual Environments

Beyond your typical video conference meetings, create opportunities for Informal Interaction with your team. Consistency is Key. Having a designated time to meet virtually is crucial to maintaining relationships and engagement. Seeing facial expressions and body language adds a personal touch that is often missing in remote work environments.

Clip art of a virtual cocktail party as a way of building remote work relationships.
  • Regularly check in with your virtual team. Not just for work updates but to maintain a steady line of communication. Video conferencing allows teams to connect and enable a sense of community.
  • Host virtual lunches. Discuss common interests, hobbies, or general life updates. Getting together and sharing food is a great way to bond professionally and personally.
  • Schedule virtual coffee chats with colleagues, clients, or industry peers. Use these casual conversations to discuss both professional and personal topics.
  • Host a weekly happy hour. Schedule a regular day/time when the team gathers to discuss non-work related topics over BYO refreshing beverages and snacks.  Have a contest for the most original or seasonal drink!
  • Share personal stories. In conversations, share appropriate personal anecdotes. Take note of important details shared by colleagues in previous interactions and reference them in future discussions.
  • Personalize your workspace. Create a personalized workspace that reflects your personality, which can be a conversation starter during video calls. Add personal touches like plants, books, artwork, or decorative items. I love this conversation piece and display it behind my desk.

Promote Diversity and Inclusion in your Remote Work Community

Remote teams often consist of members from diverse backgrounds and locations. Embrace this diversity and actively promote inclusivity. Inclusivity enhances team dynamics and contributes to a rich tapestry of ideas and experiences. Ensure all team members have equal opportunities to contribute and participate in discussions. Encourage sharing different perspectives and foster an environment where everyone feels valued. Create and promote virtual events or initiatives celebrating your team's backgrounds and experiences.

Celebrate Holidays and Achievements

Acknowledge special days throughout the year. Send a virtual card or a brief video message. Find ways to celebrate, recognize, and respect culturally different traditions and holidays.

Coordinate a Secret Santa virtual gift exchange. This is a fun and unique way for everyone on the team to get to know a little bit more about their colleagues. Here's how it goes.

  • Draw Names. Use an online tool like Elfster or Giftster. Ensure that participants do not know who has been assigned as their Secret Santa.
  • Research and Shop: There is no set budget because it’s all pretend. Shop away! 
  • Exchange Gifts via Video Call. Encourage presentations as a visual way to share the "gifts."
  • Encourage Festive Attire. Give an award for the best holiday spirit.
  • Bonus! No one has to dress up and drive to an office holiday party during the busiest time of the year!

Host a Virtual Diwali Party/Lunch.  A virtual Diwali party is a fun way to recognize the festival. Here are some ideas on how to celebrate Diwali with your remote team.

  • Learn About DiwaliEncourage employees to learn about the significance of Diwali and its cultural importance. 
  • Decorate Virtually. Decorate your virtual background with Diwali-themed images, or use virtual backgrounds to create a festive atmosphere.
  • BYO Indian Lunch. Suggest that team members prepare or order Diwali-special food or snacks for themselves. Share recipes or food ideas in advance for those who want to cook.
  • Play Virtual Games. Include some virtual games or activities to keep the celebration lively. You can play online trivia, charades, or any Diwali-themed games. 

Virtual Team Building Activities to Maintain Engagement

Organize or participate in online team-building activities like quizzes or games. Icebreakers are a great way to get people talking and loosen them up on a video call. Who doesn't love a virtual trust fall! Here are some of my favorites.

  • Team trivia quiz. Collect interesting facts about each team member, then let other colleagues guess away.
  • Throwback photos. Have all your team send an image of themselves as a child and then take turns guessing who’s who. 
  • Your very first job. Ask your team members to share what they did in their first job and any funny stories that went with it.
  • Online gaming session. Arrange a gaming session where team members can play online games together. This is a great way to unwind and build connections.
  • Team challenges. Create small teams and assign them challenges that simulate problem-solving scenarios. For example, solving a hypothetical client issue or optimizing a solution.
  • Virtual workshops. Organize virtual workshops or training sessions on new technologies or industry trends. This not only enhances skills but also provides a platform for discussion.


Given our virtual world, mastering the art of building remote work relationships is a defining factor in the success of individuals and organizations. Building strong relationships in a remote work environment is crucial for team collaboration, maintaining engagement, and success. I hope you find these suggestions useful!

Kristin is a seasoned software professional, with over 26 years of invaluable experience in the software industry. Her multifaceted career includes a wealth of hands-on experience across various cross-functional roles, including business analysis, product management, project management, and product training. Kristin has a proven record of accomplishment in project and team management on highly complex enterprise projects. Her extensive industry knowledge spans financial services, banking, non-government organizations (NGO's), and manufacturing.
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