Say What? Communication In A Virtual World.



Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Regardless of which way you tend to lean, we all need social interaction. Virtual work is unique in that while many cite the opportunity as a way to get away from distractions, one of the top difficulties is lack of communication in a virtual work setting. This complex relationship has led many companies to get creative with their communication but with social media in high prominence today, the job has become slightly easier.


There is a debate whether professional social media is productive as it can lead to employees getting distracted from their work. While this is a possibility, it has been found that social capital is reported at a higher rate by employees who use at least one form of professional social media versus those who do not (Tijunaitis, Jeske, & Shultz, 2019).


You may be wondering, what is social capital? It is a concept that comes from social capital theory that is defined by the sum of resources that are available to someone either through their personal or professional network. This in turn increases employee engagement and commitment. When employees felt they had higher social capital, they felt closer with their co-workers and better able to communicate as they deemed necessary to increase their work engagement.


Social capital theory also relates to another interesting workplace phenomenon: perceived proximity. Plavin-Masterman (2015) found that employees who were able to stay connected in remote situations in an effective way, had higher levels of perceived proximity. That is they felt physically closer to their coworkers than those who may not stay in touch as much. This not only led to higher employee satisfaction but also increased engagement and quality of work.

Clearly communication is vital to the quality and success of work, but how can companies ensure their employees continue communicating when we are all on such different schedules at home? Here are some successful endeavors companies around the world have found (Ragsdale, 2020):


  1. Celebrating small successes with colleagues in bi-weekly catch up meetings

  2. Creating “pods” with 8-9 employees who work together regularly via informal video calls

  3. Continuing mentorship programs while at home, giving employees someone to speak with both for development and as a confidant


These are just a few ways that companies are working to keep their employees engaged but with the internet at our fingertips, there are endless possibilities. Whether you want to set up a Slack channel or some form of professional social media, find ways that you can reach out and stay in touch with your coworkers. You may learn that it can actually reduce your stress just by finding you are not alone.



Thanks for reading!


Sources:

Plavin-Masterman, M. (2015). Are walls just walls? Organizational culture emergence in a virtual world. Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict, 19(2), 43-68.


Ragsdale, K. (2020). Resiliency is the newest professional skill: BNH. Business NH Magazine, 37(11), 44-47.


Tijunaitis, K., Jeske, D., & Shultz, K. S. (2019). Virtuality at work and social media use among dispersed workers. Employee Relations, 41(3), 358-373. doi:http://dx.doi.org.libproxy1.usc.edu/10.1108/ER-03-2018-0093