In an organisation with more people than the country of Monaco and projects spread across all continents, chances are that not everyone in your team sits in the same office. Long-term relationships, including virtual ones, need effort to make them work. Let me pitch in with some tips.

  1. Get to know each other: You’re not a bot, nor are your colleagues. Don’t be two thumbnails exchanging HTTP enabled text.
  2. Set your expectations: No, you guys aren’t exclusive. They might have other projects to work on, and events to go to. Know their level of commitment and share yours.
  3. Communicate effectively: More is not always better. Be clear and succinct and include them in relevant email chains. Make them feel a part of what’s important. Make them feel important. They’re banking on you, from so far away.
  4. Be creative: Email is not the only medium invented. Sometimes, words just don’t say enough. If they’re in the office and you’re in the field, how about video-calling them when the coolest crane arrives on site? Or sending them a photo of how the truss resembles rays of the sun when it sets?
  5. Fill in for each other: If they’re off on holiday, fill their shoes as reasonable. Coordinate work over time zones and don’t bug them during their sleep. Appreciate the differences.
  6. Stay positive: Difficult times shall come and pass. No blaming. No shaming. No CAPS. No nit picking. And sarcasm? A big no. When you’re so far away, your words are your personality. Be calm, polite and understanding. Have you ever given them a compliment and copied their manager on it? Think about it.
  7. Celebrate success: You can’t talk it over a coffee when things get hard. Nor can you go partying when you win a project that you were working on forever. So celebrate in other ways. If you’re the manager, maybe recommend a pay rise. If they’re always in the office, call them out for a field visit someday.

Have I missed any tips for building strong and successful virtual business relationships? Get in touch to tell us how you connect with your long-distance colleagues.