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Bonding with New Employees When You’re Still Separated by Remote Work

  • Managers may feel it is difficult to bond with employees, especially new hires, through videoconferencing
  • A recent study looks at the interactions between managers and interns at a global company
  • “Virtual watercooler” Zoom sessions were associated with benefits such as better job performance and improved job satisfaction

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

With more businesses embracing remote and hybrid work schedules, videoconferencing seems certain to stay as a convenient way of linking team members working from different locales. However, many managers may find this method an impersonal way of connecting with employees – especially new hires.

A study by Harvard Business School professors Iavor I. Bojinov and Prithwiraj Choudhury, along with HBS postdoctoral fellow Jacqueline N. Lane, looked at the interactions at a global company offering virtual or hybrid internships. The researchers found that managers can still form meaningful bonds with new hires through “virtual watercooler” sessions.

  • The study looked at three different types of remote interactions with 1,370 summer interns in 16 cities: Zoom sessions between interns and senior managers, written communications between interns and senior managers, and research project meetings where interns would work together online for 30 minutes with no managerial interaction
  • The “virtual watercooler” Zoom sessions were associated with improved worker performance, higher job satisfaction, and the increased likelihood that the company would hire the intern as a permanent employee
  • Interns who had personal Zoom interactions with managers also had an easier time contacting others for assistance

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