Rebuilding Relationships in a Digital Age

In a world where technology connects us better than ever, keeping up with all the ways to connect can be hard. How can we rebuild relationships in this digital age?

Perhaps you can relate: a team member turns to you and asks, “Did you get the message I sent you?” And you find yourself pondering, “Was it on our chat, Slack, WhatsApp, or maybe Instagram?”

Since the pandemic shifted working life online, the number of digital channels has increased by 30% (according to Statista 2022). As a result, today it takes more effort to effectively deliver messages, keep people engaged, and prevent miscommunication along the way. Have you experienced that?

So what can we do about it?

Rebuilding relationships in a Digital Age

To rebuild relationships, what should we avoid doing? One of the main pitfalls of trying to solve this, is clinging to old ways of doing things hoping they’ll work in a new world. This doesn’t mean everything needs to change, but it is crucial to pause, evaluate, and make adjustments to align ourselves with the evolving landscape.

Allow me to use a metaphor. I have a fondness for enjoying a good South Aussie red wine (who wouldn’t?). My husband hails from Clare Valley in South Australia, and when we visit his family, we drive through the valley, admiring picturesque rolling hills adorned with vineyards.

Now, I’m no winemaker (perhaps in the future?), but I know that producing a harvest of delicious wine requires several factors to nurture the growth of the grapes.

Firstly, they need appropriate structures for the vines to grow, such as a wooden trellis. It provides a framework for the vines to climb and grow, keeping them organised and allowing for better exposure to sunlight and airflow.

Secondly, they require the right conditions for the grapes – the right chemistry, perfect combination of rainfall, time, and temperature for optimal ripening.

Of course, conditions fluctuate due to factors like droughts, rainfall variations, and shifts in supply and demand. Winemakers don’t discard their entire systems; instead, they make adjustments based on the changing environment.

So how does wine relate to working relationships?

Well, in many ways, let me tell you a couple. We don’t need to abandon our systems, but we do need to make changes within them.

  1. We must reassess our communication structures, just as the trellis supports the growth of grapevines, well-established communication structures and adaptable rhythms of relationship support meaningful connections and foster a positive organisational culture in the face of changing conditions. I call this the “rhythms of relationship.”

Ask yourself, which communication rhythms were effective before but have been disrupted or no longer work? For example, when should your team communicate? What channels work best? What times foster connection, collaboration, and celebration across teams?

2. We also need to reassess the chemistry of connection, just as the right combination of elements contributes to the quality of wine, understanding the dynamics of interpersonal communication and making necessary adjustments can deepen relationships, build trust, and revitalise the culture within teams and organisations.

Ask yourself where are you noticing a lack of engagement? Where are team members demotivated? Where are you noticing interpersonal friction across teams? For instance, virtual communication eroded rapport and emotional connection among many individuals. How could you reintroduce rapport-building activities that deepen relationships, foster trust, and revitalise culture within your teams?

What’s your next sip? I mean step?

My advice is to prioritise this topic at your next conference, allowing your leaders and teams to reflect on what’s working and what’s not, develop skills, and realign their focus.

Consider your trellis—what rhythms of relationship need refreshing?

Consider the chemistry of connection—is there sizzle or fizzle? What can you do to influence interpersonal connections and dynamics within the team, fostering connection and creating a positive culture?

Hint: If you need assistance in this area and are seeking a speaker for an upcoming conference, I have plenty of ideas and would be delighted to help.


Kirryn Zerna is passionate about rehumanising connection in the digital age to cultivate high performance, revitalise culture and help put people’s passion into action. She would love to help you imagine and create a remarkable and unforgettable experience for your business or leadership event.