“I believe many like me have similar challenges especially with such prolonged period of working remotely and not being able to work face to face to build or maintain positive working relationships.” This was a quote from a client in a recent email to me. I think it sums up the challenge of many with remote working. For some people, day-to-day relationships have become more strained; others are currently living in a bit of ‘home bubble’ and it seems as if the challenges with previous work relationships have reduced greatly working from home. This is because there is no longer the physical daily contact with people and each interaction is time limited – people are not generally in one another’s presence each day, interacting is for a specific reason. I think it could be interesting to see what happens when people start to venture back to the office, even just a little more than most have done so far.
Some professional relationships that happen by default, as they are essential to day-to-day working, have become strained or more functional. What I have also seen is individuals not continuing or indeed starting to consider the other more strategic relationships post Covid they will need at work. It seems easiest to wait until Covid is over.
This is a dangerous game, especially as we are now approaching a year and a half since the pandemic began. Increasing your exposure and therefore building strategic relationships is important if not vital. Exposure is one element of the PIE theory, if you haven’t already, read more about PIE theory and the other two elements.
In essence, whilst we might like to think people know about the work we do, our skills and what we have achieved, people who work with you less closely won’t, unless they get to know you or happen to get told. Remember everyone is in their bubble of what they need to get done! Your manager might think you are doing a great job but it doesn’t necessarily mean he/she is telling others, that is down to you. Often these more senior people you work less closely with are the ones who make decisions about our working life from big ones like whether you are promoted through to which projects/clients you work on and even who joins your team, if you manage one. Building strategic relationships post Covid is of pivotal importance.
Why strategic relationships have been put on hold during the pandemic
- We were all in shock; it took a while to work out how to work entirely remotely for pretty much all of us who didn’t have a frontline job.
- We understandably prioritised what to focus on in terms of getting home life and our core job to still happen.
- We thought the pandemic would soon be gone and we could then return to normal.
- Human interactions have to be more intentional from home; there are no casual chat opportunities at the coffee machines. Even in meetings, a one-to-one conversation at the start or end of a meeting is a non-existent happening now. Therefore, we need to plan more carefully what we will ‘interrupt’ people for.
Even those who were good at building their visibility and exposure at work have slipped back somewhat.
Building strategic relationships post Covid – what to do now
If you used to have regular interactions one-to-one with more senior people who potentially have influence, then restart this. Suggest a coffee or drink to catch up, keep it informal. If it needs to be virtual then that is fine. Now is a good time to explore whether people are feeling ready to meet up in person if you are.
- If you were on a committee at work or part of a social group that has been quiet, how could these activities be restarted? Are there people you used to see in a group you’d feel comfortable engaging with individually?
- Make time to have a think about what you want to progress with, regarding your career e.g. getting to know more about another function/division or building your visibility at a certain level of the organisation. I help my clients create a Strategic Relationships Plan which involves thinking about who can help them achieve those objectives and building a plan for getting to know them. This takes time and patience!
- Understand who your colleagues know internally and whether some of those connections could be useful to you. Would a trusted colleague introduce you to certain people, if relevant?
All of these actions require time, so putting aside time in your diary is helpful, if you don’t then your day-to-day work will fill your diary. Start by putting aside a longer slot to consider what you need to do to build stategic relationships post Covid and then regular, shorter slots to progress your plan. If you need help, then please contact me.
Many won’t return to the office, even in a limited way until September or later. However, for those who want to start planning or those going back sooner, I am running a free webinar on Thursday 8th July 12.30pm Getting back in gear – considerations as we return to the office environment. Do join me to look at some important considerations for your career as we return (at least to some degree) to the office environment.
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