How Will Relationships Work in the Future of Work?

Virtual networking, virtual meetings, and streaming conferences will strengthen relationships

The future of work series is based on the insights from my quantitative and qualitative research with ideas to think about your organization and a toolkit to take action on as a leader.  This theme focuses on how relationships will work in the future of work.

Networking has gone virtual

Remember when we used to work all day and then go to an evening networking event, only to return home tired, buzzed, and ready for bed?  

The old way of networking did not work for most people, certainly not for caregivers and those with household responsibilities.  

Networking on tech platforms is not new, yet people resist change.  Our culture has been hesitant to have networking meetings virtually even though the technology has been available for some time.  In times of change as we are in now, brings increased openness to future change.  Virtual networking will be much more commonplace in the future of work.  

For those wanting network virtually, here are some best practices to host a successful virtual event:

  • Brief introductions.  Have everyone briefly introduce themselves via chat or by phone in smaller groups.  Stick to a script to maximize time (name, role, one thing they want to learn, etc.).  For large groups, consider making a visual with names and pictures so that people can connect after or having breakout rooms for small group introductions with an introductory activity..
  • Relevant thought leadership.  Everyone is curious what will be changing in the future of work and what will be important.  Have your clients or community vote on a topic online and bring an expert in to discuss their research, thoughts, or ideas.
  • Live interaction.  Get people involved via polling, breakout rooms, and live chat with exercises, story sharing, and questions.  Have meaningful content that evokes a conversation vs. talking at people.  Think edutainment.  People remember how experiences made them feel.

Even in a Zoom fatigued environment, people crave connection.  They want to maintain relationships and build new ones.  Networking events that once took two hours of time plus travel time plus parking and additional expenses, now can be efficiently accomplished in one hour in the privacy of your own home or office.  

In addition, one-on-one introductory meetings can be done far more efficiently online or by phone.

Founder of the virtual CEO platform Atlas Park, Cameo Roberson, has been helping financial advisors network virtually for years.  She believes, “in the future of work, people will not be in a rush to meet in person now they have experienced effective virtual meetings.  Think about how you can facilitate virtual networking meetings successfully in the future.  People are more open to expanding their network on LinkedIn now.  Share valuable information there to build relationships and ask for a virtual coffee meeting.  This is a great time to expand your network.”

While virtual networking may increase the effectiveness of relationships, it can also reduce bias.

David Alper, Talent Management and Organizational Development leader, shared “I have experienced less bias in the virtual work environment.  By doing phone interviews or Zoom calls without video, you cannot see the person’s age, skin color, or other markers of diversity.  It really makes the interview process less biased for older generations and people of color.

Make sure your team meetings are Inclusive 

Bias goes both ways for the future of work.  As Harvard Business Review published in Make Remote Meetings Inclusive and Accessible, virtual team meetings have an increased risk of bias towards women, those with disabilities, and introverts.  As a meeting facilitator, it is your responsibility to ensure the meeting is inclusive.  Try these best practices:

  • Monitor air time.  Balance out speaking and participation roles across the team.  Consider rotating speaking roles each meeting or having everyone speak or share before others can speak again.  Set the expectation you want to hear from everyone as a ground rule for the meeting.
  • Watch for interruptions.  Interrupt the interrupter and watch who is being interrupted.  Chances are 4x higher that someone from an underrepresented group is being interrupted (women, people of color, etc.).  This is a big deal as it takes on average 23 minutes to recover from an interruption.  That equates to lost productivity and less innovative thought.
  • Diversify methods of sharing.  Not everyone likes to share live.  Send an agenda in advance to prepare thoughts and be open to sharing via chat, email, or live, depending on the person’s preferences. 

Inclusive meetings will be a hallmark of effective communication in the future of work.  Make sure they are facilitated inclusively virtually.

Stream events online

I have long questioned the impact of in-person conferences.  Many in the diversity and inclusion community tell me that the return to work with renewed optimism for positive change all to be met with resistance from those that did not attend the conference.  They end up retreating back to the old way of doing things, maintaining the status quo.  If more people could be a part of the conference, they would buy-in to new thinking and ideas, facilitating organizational change more easily.  And, it saves time and money.

There is a lot of speculation about conferences of the future.  As a speaker that spoke regularly at conferences, I foresee conferences in the future with a blended model.  The blended model has live programming as well as streaming, with online access to programming following the conference.  This is genius.  Let people pick the option best for them.  Certainly now with health and safety decisions, but longer term to minimize travel costs and time, and to expand reach inside organizations.

Streaming is not just for Netflix. 

This a new table stake for conference planners.  That means ensuring your facilities have quality video recording capabilities and online platforms ready to deploy learning live and store content.  Also, those that attend virtually must have mechanisms to interact and connect just like they were at the conference (think polling, breakout rooms, social networking).

Toolkit to take action

Let this be an opportunity to pivot forward as a leader.  Get your team together virtually or live and be curious to learn from them.  Discuss workplace relationships and how we use this as an opportunity to strengthen relationships at work:

  • NETWORKING:  What will be your virtual networking approach?
  • MEETINGS:  How can you ensure your meetings are inclusive?
  • STREAMING:  What are some conferences you and the team can attend or organize virtually?

The future of work will not be the same.  There is no return to normal.  Building relationships virtually is vital in the future of work.

This great pause is an opportunity to lead your team to success.  How are you going to take advantage of this opportunity?

If you liked this article, good news.  I created a future of work blog series and video series on the future of work.  You can find time to connect with me  1:1 to discuss ideas here.

We need our allies more than ever.  We will get through this together.  Because we are stronger together.

Message me with your thoughts at  I personally respond to every email I receive.