In an age where remote work is becoming the new normal, younger generations working from home are missing out on networking opportunities such as chatting with colleagues in the hallway about current projects or introducing a colleague to someone new. As a trainee entering my career, trust me I know. These informal interactions, known as social capital, are benefits that people can get just because of who they know. These connections allow us to reach out for new opportunities when we’ve hit a dead end and help us build familiarity and goodwill in the workplace.
Following the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Microsoft Teams conducted over 50 studies to understand how the nature of work changed since early 2020. The largest change seen across the studies was the significant impact that full-time remote work has on organizational connections. People reported consistently feeling disconnected, and a major conclusion was drawn: the shift to remote work shrunk people’s networks.
The study found that younger workers or those new to companies are feeling the weight of social isolation the most. For those who recently joined a company, working remotely presents an array of challenges, especially when other coworkers have already established a network amongst themselves. The Microsoft Teams study found that working remotely makes it much harder for younger generations to find their footing at new workplaces; they’re not experiencing the onboarding, networking, and training that they may have experienced in person. Workers aged 18 to 25 reported difficulties feeling engaged in their work, bringing new ideas to the table, or getting a word in during meetings.
By adjusting the structure of remote work and meetings to make space for social capital to thrive, there’s hope for younger generations of workers. Building social capital takes time and effort, so by leaders and managers balancing resources and workloads, people will have time and energy to prioritize workplace relationships. Ensuring that everyone is included in meetings and gets a chance to share their ideas is another essential step that can be taken as a moderator aiming to help build workplace connectivity. The spontaneous, informal interactions and connections that are formed in workplaces are not non-essential: they feed productivity and innovation in the workplace. Thankfully Decibel Blue has been able to master this science!
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