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Hybrid work

Social capital in business: definition & valuable tips for hybrid workplaces


April 22, 2024


April 23, 2024

Relationships are resources. That’s the core belief of the social science concept of social capital theory. It’s based on how we use human connections to gain benefits, improve our well-being, and work together. Social capital in business isn’t just about who you know; it’s about how those relationships can significantly enhance collaboration and innovation within your company​.

This reflects a bigger problem in the modern work setting, where remote work has strained traditional ways of building and nurturing connections. Maintaining these networks in a hybrid environment may be more difficult. And when bonds weaken, everything from project progress to personal career advancement suffers. The good news? It’s not just you. In this article, we’ll walk you through practical, actionable strategies for boosting your workplace social capital so your network remains strong and supportive no matter where you are. Ready to dive in and turn those challenges into opportunities? Let’s get started.

The meaning and the importance of social capital in business

The theory of social capital

Social capital in business is about connections between people at work. It’s the trust, knowledge, and cooperation that emerge from these relationships. Social capital theory says that these networks have real, tangible benefits. They help solve problems and get information out faster. When employees feel valued and connected, it boosts their engagement and motivation, which can only mean business success. This can then lead to better decision-making, increased creativity, and, ultimately, a more resilient and agile company​. 

The three different types of social capital

Social capital manifests in three main ways: bonding, bridging, and linking. Bonding social capital refers to relationships within a similar group or community. Bridging social capital is between groups, classes, races, religions, or other socio demographic or socioeconomic characteristics. Lastly, linking social capital involves connections that reach across power and authority gradients, connecting people at different levels of the hierarchy. This variety allows for an upward and downward flow of influence and support, which is important for organizational cohesion and adaptability. And yes, the ultimate goal should be to try to enhance the three of them.

The impact of flexible work on social capital

The shift to flexible work arrangements has reshaped social capital access. With more employees working remotely, there’s been a notable decline in casual, spontaneous interactions that are vital for building trust and camaraderie. Many companies rely on technology to make their hybrid offices work. But in-person interactions can’t be fully replicated by virtual tools. This reduction in face-to-face engagements can lead to a decrease in bonding and bridging social capital, making it harder for people to feel connected and supported. Therefore, finding innovative ways to adapt and foster these social networks is crucial to maintaining engagement and productivity in increasingly digital workplaces.

👋 Discover how to design a successful flexible work policy!

colleagues smiling at each other
Colleagues working together in the office

The benefits of boosting your workplace social capital

Stronger corporate culture and workplace connections

Boosting social capital in your company can improve corporate culture and deepen workplace connections, a challenge particularly felt in a hybrid work setting. Having strong social capital makes your staff feel more connected to each other and to the business. Feeling like you belong leads to a more inclusive and supportive work environment, which is crucial for employee retention. You’re also more likely to collaborate effectively and communicate openly when trust and mutual respect grow. This will help you overcome challenges and align with your goals. Eventually, your organization becomes more cohesive and innovative when you invest in social capital.

Higher levels of trust in the workplace

In hybrid environments, reduced in-person interaction complicates trust building, potentially decreasing transparency and communication. As we’ve just mentioned, building strong social capital also means fostering more trust at work. When your team feels trusted, they are more likely to communicate openly, take calculated risks, and discuss effectively. It boosts individual performance and enhances team dynamics because employees are more willing to depend on each other and work together. By promoting mutual confidence, you tend to see more open exchanges of ideas, fewer conflicts, and sped-up decision-making, helping your organization be more efficient.

More support and knowledge sharing among team members

Hybrid setups can limit informal interactions, leading to information silos and collaboration issues. Growing social capital in your organization is the answer to increased support and knowledge sharing. Your employees are more likely to share insights, skills, and experiences if they feel connected and valued within their professional community. This culture boosts individual and team performance by exposing people to creative ideas and approaches. By bringing diverse perspectives to the table, expertise sharing can spark innovation and problem-solving. Ultimately, you build a more skilled and resilient workforce by encouraging your staff to support each other.

Greater talent retention and attraction

Boosting your organization’s social capital can help you keep top performers and hire new talent. Remote employees who feel connected and recognized are more likely to talk positively about your company and stick by your side, reducing turnover rates. Also, a vibrant and encouraging workplace is a great selling point for prospective workers who value culture and connection. Having a strong internal network and meaningful workplace relationships makes a business more attractive to ambitious people looking for a supportive and growth-oriented environment.

Higher employee engagement and productivity

Employees who work from home sometimes feel disconnected and less motivated. Enhancing social capital also contributes to higher employee engagement and productivity. When workers feel bonded to their colleagues and aligned with the company’s goals, they’re more motivated and committed. As people are more engaged, they’re more likely to go above and beyond in their roles. Plus, when you share knowledge and resources, you’re more efficient and come up with more innovative solutions. Well-connected teams do better on individual tasks, collaborate, and create more.

💥 Discover how deskbird helps you boost hybrid work productivity and maximize efficiency!

hands in the center of table
Teamwork in the office

3 examples of social capital in business

Example 1: Cross-functional collaboration

Cross-functional collaboration is key in breaking down silos, which is especially necessary in hybrid workplaces where departments might not physically interact often. This kind of teamwork encourages the flow of information and ideas between areas that don’t normally communicate. For instance, a project involving marketing, finance, and tech can result in innovative solutions that no team could have come up with alone. Diverse perspectives and expertise lead to better creativity and problem-solving capabilities. Collaborations like these foster a sense of purpose across the organization and build a strong network of relationships that boost performance.

Example 2: Company retreats

A company retreat is a great way to boost social capital. It gets people out of the office and brings remote and onsite employees together. Informal bonding can happen more naturally in a new and often relaxing environment. By blending fun and professional development, like workshops, team-building exercises, and leisure activities, you reinforce and form stronger relationships. Relaxed atmospheres break down formal barriers and encourage open communication, which leads to lasting bonds at work.

👉 Check out our 21 company retreat ideas blog post for more insights on organizing effective corporate retreats!

Example 3: Team-bonding activities

Team bonding initiatives are essential for building social capital by creating opportunities for employees to connect in a less formal setting. Activities can range from simple in-office games to elaborate outdoor challenges, all designed to enhance trust and camaraderie. Through these interactions, colleagues get to know each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and working styles, fostering a more cohesive group. By getting to know one another better, coworkers can collaborate and work more efficiently. Team building definitely transforms the workplace atmosphere and boosts morale. If you are running out of inspiration, this article gives companies of all sizes 15 team bonding ideas

Colleagues socializing
Colleagues socializing

Recommendations and tips to harness your social capital

Measure your current social capital before implementing anything

Before you start building social capital, it’s important to know where things stand, especially in hybrid workplaces. In these environments, disrupted communication patterns make it challenging to assess how well people connect and interact. Setting a baseline helps you track the progress and effectiveness of any new strategies you implement. For example, you can use methods like Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) to see how your staff communicates. You can do that by surveying team members, looking at network dynamics to detect how information travels across the company, and measuring employee engagement. ONA insights show you where teams are well-connected and where relationships need to be improved. Building a stronger, more collaborative hybrid workplace starts with understanding these processes.

Organize team-bonding activities and social events

As we’ve seen, regular team bonding activities and social get-togethers are key to building a strong sense of community within your organization. Besides being fun, they also bring remote and in-office employees together and break down barriers. You can have informal interactions that lead to collaborations and stronger relationships. Whether it’s a Friday afternoon gathering or an offsite retreat with a creative theme, these gatherings boost morale and help teams bond. Ideally, you should plan a mix of games that appeal to everyone’s interests and personalities. By encouraging your staff to connect in these less formal settings, you foster a supportive and collaborative culture at your company. Here are some original ideas for organizing these events.

Enhance virtual and in-person collaboration

With the right hybrid workplace technology, you can significantly improve collaboration, both virtually and in person. Teams stay aligned on projects regardless of their location with communication platforms and task management tools. By implementing desk booking systems like deskbird, employees can plan their in-office days around their group’s needs or specific project requirements, fostering more effective teamwork. These technologies support a connected workforce by facilitating the smooth exchange of information and maintaining continuity and efficiency in a flexible work environment.

Promote a corporate culture with strong values

Hybrid workplaces can make it hard to maintain a unified corporate identity and ethos due to disparate work locations. Building a strong corporate culture boosts your social capital. Because a great workplace culture comes from strong, clear values. When your employees align with these fundamental principles, they are more likely to engage positively, encourage one another, and share knowledge. Embrace these standards in every aspect of your business, from recruitment and onboarding to daily management. Keeping these ideals top of mind makes them part of its DNA, guiding decision-making and behavior at all levels. In this way, solid social relationships can thrive in a supportive environment.

Make the office attractive again to motivate your employees to come on-site

Making your office space more appealing boosts in-person interactions and strengthens social bonds. Redesign your workspace to include more collaborative areas, quiet zones for focus, and leisure spots where employees relax and socialize. Plants, better lighting, and new furniture also make the working environment feel more inviting. Creating a positive, people-centric atmosphere multiplies the benefits of working at the office. It helps rebuild and enhance face-to-face relationships. At the end of the day, having an attractive workplace keeps team members engaged and connected while promoting productivity. 

Use the deskbird app

Using tools like deskbird transforms how your staff works in the office. With our app, your employees can book desks next to coworkers, choose workspaces near their preferred teammates, and organize company events. Not only does this improve daily interactions, but it also facilitates planning and executing large gatherings easier. It makes it simple for your hybrid workforce to meet physically on selected days, strengthening personal ties and enhancing collaboration. Our flexible workplace management software helps you maintain and grow social capital, keeping your coworkers connected and cohesive even when working remotely.

Strong social capital in business enables collaboration, boosts morale, and fosters a resilient corporate culture. From online and in-person interaction technology to redesigning the workspaces employees love, each strategy enhances the network of relationships, reinforcing your company’s success. No matter the challenges, your team stays connected, innovative, and productive. And if all else fails, they’ll have plenty of material for office karaoke nights! As you move forward, remember how powerful workplace social capital can be for your organization.

So nurture this vital asset with tools like deskbird and watch your business grow!

Start a free trial of the deskbird app to discover our people-centric and collaborative features. 


Social capital in business: definition & valuable tips for hybrid workplaces

Paulyne Sombret

Paulyne is a highly respected expert in hybrid work. She's known for her writing on sustainability in the hybrid office, flexible work models, and employee experience. With a strong background in content and SEO, her work explores the exciting trends and latest news in the world of work.

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