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Belonging at work: recommendations for future research

This blogpost is part of the “Belonging is a mindset” blog series derived from my academic research on ‘internal communication and belonging in the virtual workplace’ for the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University. The data from this study was collected from new hires who started their jobs in the middle of the pandemic and internal communication practitioners. This blogpost is part of the conclusions and recommendations section.

Limitations and directions for future research

Employee-line manager relationship

This study found a direct relationship between belongingness and the quality of an employee’s relationship with his/her manager. However, it seems that line managers are either reluctant, unavailable, unaware, or unskilled to create a sense of belongingness in their teams. It might thus be interesting for future researchers to explore the real cause of this disconnect and find out how internal communication can help make this relationship flourish.

Focus and sample

Given that the employees interviewed are not focused on a single industry, it is also interesting to conduct a study on internal communication and a sense of belongingness in the virtual workplace focusing on one field or industry alone. Would the internal communication requirements for workplace belongingness of engineers be the same as that of doctors?

Likewise, only eight IC professionals were interviewed for this study. A possibility for future research, therefore, is to expand this sample. An additional variable in this study would be to scrutinize not the changes but constant elements of internal communication practice as the workplace changes from physical to virtual and eventually hybrid setting. These consistent elements can be defined as the strengths of internal communication as it works in a variety of workplaces.

Moreover, there were only two men interviewed for this study, one new hire and one IC professional. One possible study therefore is with a male population or a gender-balanced sample.

Longitudinal study

Finally, one limitation of this study is that the main data came from newly-hired employees alone. It may be interesting for future researchers to conduct the same study with employees who have been working in the same organisation for some time and investigate if there are differences in their sense of belongingness before and after they had to move to the virtual workplace.

Another interesting variable in this study would be when workplaces start using the hybrid model of working at a larger scale. A longitudinal study showing three timelines (face-to-face, virtual and hybrid) for the same employee sample might give us a different understanding of a sense of belongingness in our workplaces and the role of internal communication therein.

Next up

In the next blogpost,


  • You will find a full list of references here.
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