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 my literature review.
The virtual workplace is where individuals work from various locations distant from their colleagues and managers (Cascio 2000). Compared to the traditional workplace where all employees are located in the same place, this dispersion calls for a different set of skills both from employees and managers, since they rely heavily on technology to get work done and connect with each other (Gibbs et al. 2017; Edwards and Wilson 2017).
Good communication is key for teams to work effectively and efficiently. This is even more important in the virtual workplace setting where the usual practices in a colocated workplace no longer work. While technology has made it possible for colleagues from different locations to work together, non-verbal cues are harder to discern behind a screen (Greenberg et al. 2007). With this comes the weakening of trust which is why regular and positive collaboration is important (Daim et al. 2012) as well as non-work-related communication which builds bonds in virtual teams (Greenberg et al. 2007).
Internal social media
In a qualitative study of Chinese employees working from home at the onset of the pandemic, loneliness was found to be one of the key challenges next to work-home interference, ineffective communication, and procrastination (Wang et al. 2021). The cause that was found was less physical interactions with colleagues and social gatherings that give them the opportunity to connect on a personal level. It was further found that social support through internal social media negated the effects of loneliness (Wang et al. 2021). Internal social media is only one of the strategies and tactics available to IC professionals.
What internal communication can do
Considering these findings, internal communication appears to be a potential factor in battling isolation and loneliness in the virtual workplace and promoting belongingness. Communication tools facilitate connection (World Economic Forum 2020), the way we communicate impacts an employee’s emotions (Men and Yue 2019; Men et al. 2020), and the way communication is managed in an organisation affects an employee’s identification with the organisation (Yue et al. 2020). These are all factors that constitute a sense of belongingness at work (McClure and Brown 2008; Belle et al. 2015).
In the next blogpost, you will get a deep dive into my sample for this research.
- You will find a full list of references here.