Meeting new people can be nerve-wracking, especially ones who’ve been working for you for months. Here’s how to make those first meeting jitters disappear for both you and your employees.
In the midst of the health crisis, it’s very likely you had to hire (and fire) people remotely. More and more employees want to work remotely now, and many companies are happy to oblige.
According to a just-released survey of more than 800 knowledge workers by freelance marketplace Braintrust, nearly two-thirds of workers said “freedom of location” is what they now want the most out of their jobs. Eighty-five percent said they would even seriously consider becoming a freelancer to have the freedom to work remotely.
The changing world of hybrid work offices
Now, with vaccinations increasing and life slowly transitioning back to normal, many companies are returning to the office. Some are creating hybrid work environments where people spend only a few days per week in the office.
Whatever you choose for your company, it’s very likely you’ll be having face-to-face interactions with employees soon if you’re not doing so already. If you haven’t met your remote hires at all yet, and you have the opportunity to do so, you should probably make it happen as soon as possible. Assuming people are comfortable being indoors with others, it is important to establish in-person rapport.
Knowing you in a context other than just another Zoom call will improve loyalty. It can even help employees want to do better work for you. When you do finally meet your remote hires, here’s how to capitalize on that time for the best possible professional outcome.
1. Acknowledge the awkwardness
Let’s face it — being part of a team of people you’ve never met, especially when they already know each other, can be pretty awkward. No matter how hard you may have worked to establish company culture remotely, it’s simply not the same as being in person. Remote hires might have been part of your team for months or even a year without ever meeting you or any of their coworkers. They might know everyone on a surface level, but they don’t know how tall their team members are, how they carry themselves, or what they eat for lunch every day.
There’s no way around the fact that it’s intimidating to meet your boss for the first time after an extended period of time working together remotely. By talking about it and clearing the air, your employees will feel more comfortable opening up about how they’re feeling in the midst of the transition.
It’s best to get this out of the way quickly so nobody gets caught up in the discomfort. Then you can move straight into getting to know each other and integrating your remote team members into the office community.
2. Have activities in place to break the ice
We all know that ice breakers can be great for team building and bonding, especially when some employees don’t know anyone. Having some structured activities and topics to go through will ensure that you’re not in charge of running the entire conversation. It will also make sure that gregarious and shy folks alike will all be answering the same question and no one employee will end up dominating the conversation.
The best thing about ice breakers is that they eliminate that pesky, aforementioned awkwardness by making sure everybody gets a turn to speak. This is especially important if you’re getting together with a team. However, it can be helpful in one-on-one and two-on-one settings as well.
3. Be appreciative
Working from home has been hard, especially for people with other obligations like children or elderly live-in parents. No matter how many times you may have thanked your employees on Slack or Zoom, when you meet them in person make sure to look them in the eyes and voice your appreciation for all their hard work.
This may seem small, especially if you have made it a point to thank them remotely, but it will go a long way. Expressing your appreciation in person will create a sense of connection and camaraderie that will incentivize continued hard work. Employees want to know the sacrifices they have made to produce quality work for you during such a difficult time are worthwhile.
4. Be a mentor
It’s important to remember that you are most likely the more experienced one — both with your particular office environment and office environments in general when it comes to young, new hires. They are probably much more nervous than you are about making a good impression.
Make sure to let all of your employees know you’re there to guide and support them in the transition back to in-person work. If they know you as a friendly face around the office moving forward, you’ll establish trust and comfort. This will go a long way toward creating a positive work environment.
5. Be yourself
When meeting new people for the first time, many feel the need to act impressive or go into people-pleasing mode. This is especially true as we re-integrate into social settings. After a full year with very few in-person interactions, many people feel they lack confidence in their social skills.
While the instinct to act in a certain way to make people like you is understandable in everyday social life, it can do more harm than good in the office. Remember, you’ll be spending a lot more time with these people moving forward. There’s no need to be anyone other than you, and people will appreciate you for it.