Building and maintaining positive work relationships is an important facet of workplace success. During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many people transitioned to working remotely, changing the dynamics with their supervisor and among coworkers. If your organization is making return-to-work plans, now is an excellent opportunity to focus on reaffirming relationships with your colleagues.

Schedule lunch dates or coffee breaks with key individuals in the first days of your return. Prioritize spending time with coworkers who have been supportive before and during the pandemic. Having plans in place to connect and re-establish your network may help ease social anxiety about being back at your workplace.

Keep in mind that safety precautions have changed people’s comfort level with social norms, like shaking hands and interacting with or without masks. Determine what feels most comfortable to you now and develop a plan to communicate your desires upon your return.

After months spent working remotely, it may also be helpful to review the building blocks of the positive work relationships:


  • Be a good listener. Use verbal and nonverbal cues to demonstrate you are focused on what the other person has to say.
  • Think before you speak. Consider what you want to communicate and choose your words carefully. Be mindful of how you speak—don’t raise your voice, use harsh tones or use profanity. Speak like a professional and you will be perceived as one.
  • Don’t interrupt.
  • Clarify to avoid miscommunication—summarize and repeat back what you heard. Ask questions if you don’t understand.
  • Aim for face-to-face communications whenever possible, instead of voicemail or email.
  • Be diplomatic.
  • Emphasize the use of courtesy and respect in all communications.

Support & Appreciation

  • On group projects, be sure to credit and compliment everyone who contributed.
  • Speak well of your coworkers and acknowledge their accomplishments.
  • Never take credit for someone else efforts.
  • Acknowledge coworkers’ birthdays, promotions, engagements, weddings, new children or the death of a loved one. Such thoughtfulness leaves a lasting impression.

Don’t forget to use expressions of appreciation, which are too often forgotten in the workplace. Used on a daily basis, they can contribute to a positive work environment and include:

  • Please.
  • Thank you.
  • Good job!
  • Great idea.
  • Pardon me.
  • I’m sorry.

Conflict Resolution

  • Approach conflict as situation-related as opposed to person-related. Focus on the problem, not the person.
  • Be proactive instead of reactive. Start with solutions rather than complaints.
  • Stay positive and goal-oriented when suggesting solutions.
  • Offer clear and specific instructions. Instead of, “This report is all wrong. Fix it!” say, “The Q1 data was used but we need Q2 data, can you make that change to the report today?”
  • Keep an open mind. Listen to the other person’s point of view without interrupting or arguing and strive for a win-win solution.
  • Accept feedback—whether positive or negative—with poise and without becoming defensive. It speaks volumes about your professionalism.
  • Be slow to anger, particularly regarding insignificant issues. Being perceived as cool-headed and rational adds value to your responses.
  • Never criticize a coworker or employee in front of others.
  • If you find yourself in a disagreement with someone, don’t air out your differences in public. Find a private location to discuss the issue.