Building rapport is an important skill for all leaders to master. When all or most of your interaction with employees is virtual, a strong sense of connection is key to building and sustaining rapport.
Make yourself available.
Just because you aren’t working face to face with your team doesn’t mean they have less access to you than they would in an office. Consider holding virtual office hours where employees can schedule a time to chat and discuss any questions or concerns they might have. Let your employees know the best method to contact you and when they can expect a reply. This alleviates the stress of employees not knowing if you’ve gotten a message or feeling like a response is taking too long.
Communication is key.
Communicating openly, honestly, and frequently is the best way to build rapport. Keep your team in the loop by providing frequent updates and passing along pertinent information as soon as possible. Consider daily or weekly update messages that can be sent to the entire team to keep everyone on the same page.
Speak with your team.
It’s important to talk to your employees either by video or by phone. Email and messaging can be the predominant method of communication, but to truly build rapport you need to actually speak with your employees. Video is preferred, but the phone also works. What’s most important is that spoken words are exchanged, even if it’s just for a quick conversation.
Recognize your employees.
Recognition helps employees stay motivated, knowing that someone is seeing and valuing their work. It’s also a great way to build rapport as it shows that you as a leader are paying attention to the effort your employees are putting into their work.
For employees who were previously managed face to face in a physical workplace, it’s important to maintain and strengthen those relationships. Build on the rapport you already have with them by trying to replicate the same practices and procedures that you established in the workplace, and amp up your communication efforts.
For employees who are new to the team and that you’ve only interacted with virtually, it’s important to maintain an open and frequent line of communication. Allow a bit of extra time in the ‘getting to know you’ stage of work, which can be longer due to the fact that you don’t have the same amount of interaction with virtual employees as you do with a team working in the same physical location.