Financial Capital vs. Social Capital in the Return-to-Work Debate

by Mark Marone  | April 1, 2021

Working from Home (WFH) will be coming to an end for many who expected otherwise: physical offices are set to make a bigger rebound than anticipated.

The widely-publicized cost savings of remote work could be outweighed by the impact of declining social capital and changing communication patterns.

Whether operating remotely, in a hybrid model, or in-person, organizations may want to turn some attention to strengthening social capital.

As keen observers of human relations and their impact on organizations’ performance, we wrote several blogs back in 2020 on the future of WFH. We weren’t convinced then that remote work would become the “new normal” and it seems that many of business leaders now agree.

The lates McKinsey pulse survey of CEOs reports that while many leaders don’t expect to really be settled into their post-pandemic working model until 2022 (whether that’s back to their pre-pandemic mode of operation or a “new normal”), most now expect to return to the physical office.

Despite some high-profile exceptions, “wholesale moves toward remote working remain the exception rather than the rule”, they conclude. In fact, fewer than a third of business leaders surveyed are now committed to a hybrid model including two to three days of remote work per week.

Why?

Even with the appeal of significant cost savings from WFH, we think that recent experiences have given business leaders a heightened sense of the importance of social capital and its impact on collaboration, corporate culture, talent development, productivity and performance, which we explored in prior blogs.

At the heart of social capital development are trusted professional relationships and effective communication, and we’ve all seen how difficult it can be to consistently communicate well when restricted exclusively to email, texting and Zoom.

Our research (consistent with work done by many others) has found again and again that effective communication and social intelligence are key for psychological safety and team effectiveness, resilience, organizational agility, and the genuine inclusion that supports sustained diversity.

We’ve undergone our own digital transformation at Dale Carnegie to offer new flexibility to participants – Learn From Anywhere (LFA) option. Opportunities on the horizon for bringing people together for training around topics such as interpersonal skills, social intelligence, and leadership are good news as research suggests it may be more effective when taught using a blended approach that includes live instruction together with online enhancements.

If you’re ready to learn more about enhancing social capital-building skills within your team build, please contact us – we look forward to talking with you.

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Written By

Mark Marone

Mark Marone, PhD. is the director of research and thought leadership for Dale Carnegie and Associates where he is responsible for ongoing research into current issues facing leaders, employees and organizations world-wide. He publishes frequently on various topics including leadership, the employee/customer experience and sales. Mark can be reached at mark.marone@dalecarnegie.com.