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How to Connect With the Co-Workers You’re Missing

“Right now, during Covid-19, I think is the perfect time to be transparent with our needs,” said Lupe Nambo, a licensed marriage and family therapist. We might assume our co-workers know that we’d like to talk more frequently, but if you haven’t communicated your wishes to them, she said, then they aren’t going to be able to show up in the way you need or expect.

Don’t be shy about creating a new pattern for these friendships, Ms. Nelson said. It might feel uncomfortable to say, “Hey, I miss you,” but she recommends expressing that because we don’t know how much longer this pandemic will last. Just knowing you have this connection with cherished co-workers “will do so much for you feeling engaged and supported and seen,” she said.

If it’s been a while since you’ve talked to a favorite acquaintance at work, Ms. Nambo recommends sending a low-stakes text, Slack or email saying, “Hey, I’m just thinking about you. I hope you’re doing all right.” Or sending an email that says, “Hey, I miss you. I hope you’re doing OK.” You don’t have to overwhelm the other person by organizing a virtual get-together right off the bat, she said. The goal is to just touch base and then see how it goes (and, of course, be mindful of professionalism and company culture and protocols).

If you’re looking for more connection with a colleague you’ve already maintained some communication with, Ms. Nambo recommends coming up with ways you can increase the intimacy of your interactions. This could look like:

Posting photos and updates in an online group.

Sharing interesting or relevant articles you’ve read.

Chatting in a dedicated Slack channel.

Scheduling lunch dates over Zoom.

Planning a virtual happy hour.

Organizing a socially distanced picnic in the park.

Ms. Nambo suggests keeping workplace-related gossip to a minimum when you speak to one another, as the goal is to unwind and focus on bringing back the friendship you enjoyed so much.

All that said: Be mindful if co-workers are too overwhelmed for extra communication, and try to be receptive to any subtle hints they might give to indicate they don’t have the time or mental space to chat.

By switching to remote work, what “we’ve lost is proximity and spontaneity,” Ms. Nelson said. “And those were two of the drivers that made workplace friendships easier than our nonwork relationships.” Therefore we need to be more proactive about maintaining contact with one another. Pick a day when you reach out — say, Thursdays — and schedule check-ins with one or two co-workers. Treat it like an appointment.

“Even a 15-minute phone call is going to leave you feeling more connected than almost anything else you can schedule into your day,” Ms. Nelson said. Chatting on the phone not only gives you a break from draining video calls, but it will leave you both feeling more connected than texting or email.

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