Work from anywhere: Five top tips to build social capital between teams

Sameeha Joshi, Workplace Consultant Workplace strategy, Hybrid working, Change management

As businesses have increasingly adopted hybrid working patterns, many discovered new and innovative ways to build connection in remote or hybrid teams. While many companies embrace hybrid or agile work schemes to provide flexibility, building and maintaining social capital within organisations is crucial, wherever you work from.

Social capital refers to the positive relationships formed between people than enable communities to thrive. In the workplace, social capital helps to create trust, stronger teams, and contributes to an organisation's success. Inspired by a 2003 study that explores the different types of digital infrastructure that can be used to strengthen bonds and build social capital, we’re sharing five ways to maintain and build social capital as a hybrid workforce.

1) Staying connected digitally

Mobilising an internal communications network and harnessing technology in the workplace helps to engage employees, no matter where or how they work. Sharing company-wide information digitally ensures that remote and hybrid workers experience parity and aligned with business goals and objectives. Through the ability to celebrate wins, spark discussions and connect over shared interests, it provides an opportunity for employees to connect with their colleagues, build relationships and collaborate on various projects. Many businesses already hold weekly business-wide or team meetings, or issue regular newsletters, and facilitating online dial-in to these calls streamlines the process. Digital platforms or intranets can be used to foster cultural connections, too. Whether it’s promoting virtual and in person events or sparking informal conversations, such as sharing a new favourite book or show with your colleagues.

2) Social translucence

Social translucence refers to digital systems that make our online activities and presence visible to one another, meaning we can remain connected while working remotely. Thankfully, apps such as Zoom or Teams can help with this, with icons to show your availability. Encouraging employees to update their status to ‘busy’ when doing focused work, ‘away from the desk’ when on a break and ‘available’ when able to chat, can help set some boundaries between work modes and strengthen communication within the team. To build trust and to support wellbeing, encourage all employees, whether based at home, in the office or from a third space, to take regular breaks from their desks to rest their eyes and their minds. This shows that none of us need to be present and available at each minute of the workday.

3) Collective efficacy

Praising a co-worker for their efforts is often a passive action that naturally tends to be verbal. It’s less often to receive the same praise from a coworker or manager via email, meaning that hybrid and remote workers, could be less exposed to this part of office culture. A research study from Bersin & Associates revealed that organisations with a culture rich in recognition experience a 31% reduction in voluntary turnover, with nearly one-third fewer employees choosing to leave. It’s practices like this that should be incorporated into the everyday, so that people benefit from the feeling of inclusion even when working remotely. Sharing business success stories in company communications can increase collective efficacy, inclusion and purpose, contributing to a shared belief and mentality within a business.

4) In-person and virtual team building

Putting in place continuous opportunity for connection, such as drop-in virtual events or organised team catch-ups, can easily be embedded into the workday. Virtual games for the whole team could be a fun way to socialise and participate in remote team-building, and occasional in-person mixers and days out can help to strengthen that bond. Furthermore, encouraging whole team days in the office driven by a need to solve problems or socialise together can drive collaboration and productivity, when they’re underpinned by a specific role or purpose.

5) Persistent virtual identity

For new starters entering a workplace virtually or in a hybrid working model, it’s particularly important to consider how to build social capital with colleagues in the early days. Employees will naturally undergo a period of adjustment to and new surroundings and the people they work with, wherever they work. It can often be a challenge to get to know new colleagues virtually; consider a personalised welcome email and introducing your new colleague to people of interest across the business, so that you can start building links between employees. Encourage people to reach out to new employees virtually and in the office to help integrate and welcome new members of the team.

The role of the physical workplace for hybrid teams

The physical workplace still has a crucial part to play in communication, collaboration and team building, and whilst remote or hybrid working has its benefits, place-based working does too. The physical workplace offers a ‘homebase’ or meeting place for hybrid teams, providing a place to connect, build relationships and work together.

We know that we each have our own ways of working, and that we find types of tasks easier when our environment supports them. An office that holds a human-centric design at its core provides teams with the best environment for collaboration, learning and community building, and the building itself means more to employees as a result.

It’s clear that there are plenty of ways to build a strong team bond, wherever your team works, but what’s also clear is that the office is a vital tool for creating strong, collaborative, autonomous teams within a business. Face-to-face conversations and coordinated office days underpin developing relationships and agile teams. If your office no longer fits your space requirements or isn’t fulfilling its potential, speak to our Workplace Strategy team to start your workplace transformation today.

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