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How Remote Workers Make Work Friends

Beth Schinoff, Blake E. Ashforth, and Kevin Corley

11/23/2019

Research has shown that when employees have friends at work they are better performers, more engaged, and happier with their jobs. However, thanks in large part to technology, how we relate to our coworkers is changing in two important ways. First, we are less likely to live close to our coworkers. This means that we may not have the opportunity for in-person, informal shared experiences (e.g., going to happy hours, running into each other at the “water cooler”) as well as organizationally sponsored shared experiences (company outings/dinners). Second, we increasingly rely on technology to communicate with our colleagues. Interacting through media like text message, instant message, and FaceTime makes it harder to get a sense of who someone is. We can’t assess body language and other non-linguistic cues in the same way we can in-person. When we work via technology, it is also more likely that we will only communicate with our virtual coworkers when we have a reason to — such as for a shared task. Given these fundamental differences in how we relate when working virtually, how do remote colleagues become friends?

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    Company Culture

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