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Real People in a Virtual World: Social Engagement on Purpose

14 September 2022

Interpersonal connection is a critical facet of human society. Relationships allow people to create community and culture as well as function as part of a family, group, or organization. Social capital refers to the collective value of a person’s social networks — and the way these networks interact and work together.

In traditional work models, social capital is a natural part of the working environment. Employees who see each other daily have casual interactions that develop into deeper connections. Colleagues gain awareness of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and when human connection is a factor, they are more likely to collaborate on problem-solving to streamline workflows. Workplace relationships also increase awareness of individual circumstances and concerns, extending each individual employee’s support system.

Social disruption

When the pandemic forced abrupt work model changes, critical social connections were disrupted by the distance, and many companies failed to account for recovering or replacing workplace relationships. Now, as social distancing requirements relax, business and industry are confronting the challenges associated with creating and curating social capital in a permanently altered working world.

New, more flexible work models are here to stay, but they don’t offer employees as many organic opportunities to engage and build interpersonal connections. A virtual or distributed workforce means your organization’s employees may seldom, if ever, occupy the same place at the same time. With the increasing popularity of these work models, a people-centered organizational design is essential for supporting employees in their ongoing need for social engagement.

Social engagement is essential

Social capital used to be a natural byproduct of regular, in-person interaction. Today’s more dispersed society is transforming the process of building social capital into one requiring forethought, planning, and intentional action. It’s not easy to make small talk in a virtual workplace, and small talk is frequently the foundation on which trust, empathy, and feelings of belonging rely.

Flexible working models offer extraordinary benefits for both employers and employees, but building social capital remains a challenge and an imperative. Consider the following data:

An intentional social engagement strategy is clearly critical to virtual and distributed workplace success — and the positive employee experience flexible work models are meant to provide.

Social capital strategies for a distributed workforce

Leading a distributed workforce requires a fresh perspective on social engagement and workplace relationships. Think about strategies for connecting — or reconnecting — employees both in and out of the office. Key areas for consideration include:

 

Social capital and genuine interpersonal connection contribute to a people-centered company culture. Employee engagement strategies encourage staff alignment and provide employees with opportunities for creating human connection, strong working relationships, and a support network that transcends the constraints of a virtual or distributed workplace.

Learn more about human-centered design strategies for enhanced organizational flow at fitch-consulting.com.
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