Why Social Capital Is Important on Remote Teams

Why Social Capital Is Important on Remote Teams

Here’s a quick quiz. What is the definition of “social capital”?

a)  Benefits that accrue to businesses that contribute to their communities and society. 
b)  Advantages that accumulate for a network that exchanges reciprocal support and favors.
c)  Results that flow from the trust, reciprocity, information, and cooperation between people who are connected.
d)  All of the above, and many more.

Yes, you are correct. The answer is d.

“Social capital” is a term that’s been around since de Tocqueville, but is appearing more in the business press these days as leadership coaches zero in on the importance of connections in our corporate culture. According to the World Bank, social capital can be built at many levels: countries, societies, companies, or people. Social capital is the value that results from trust and connections that have been carefully cultivated between individuals in networks at any level.

Social Capital in the Workplace

At Sococo, we focus at the team level, and that’s why Margaret Heffernan’s article and TED talk about teams and social capital, The Secret Ingredient That Makes Some Teams Better Than Others,” struck a chord. Heffernan highlights studies done by Thomas Malone, author of The Future of Work, and MIT researchers that resulted in a major finding. They found that what’s important to team productivity and results is not so much who is on the team but how the team gets alongit’s about the mortar, not just the bricksand that’s what builds social capital.

Here’s a key part: “Building social capital sounds like an abstract idea, but it derives from an accumulation of small actions.”

Exchanging moments of empathy, being open and transparent about disagreement, finding opportunities to break from work to get to know your team—small actions like these go a long way to building a familiarity, rapport, and trust that results in better team output. For one call center cited in her article, a simple move to communal coffee breaks resulted in a $15 million gain in productivity and a 10 percent increase in employee satisfaction.

Social Capital and Distributed Teams

Finding ways to get to know your fellow coworkers and interact casually is more challenging in a virtual environment. We at Sococo have come to admit that. Our management team is new and more dispersed than ever; we are rebuilding our social capital, and it is critical that we get it right. Of course, we use our own solution to drop in on each other and build familiarity—and we honestly can’t imagine doing what we do without it. But, it’s not about the tool, it’s about filling our company bank with the valuable social capital we are carefully cultivating.

As with many other distributed team initiatives, it will take more focused, ongoing work and persistence from each of us to build this capital. However, as we increasingly enjoy those moments when the team is humming on the same frequency, the “positive vibe” is definitely worth the effort.

Today’s post was written by the Sococo team. Sococo unifies coworkers, no matter where they are located, in map-based virtual spaces that facilitate rich and spontaneous engagement. Sococo creates a dynamic, engaging, and connected virtual workspace that enables flexible, spontaneous, multi-dimensional interactions. With Sococo, physical distance no longer needs to be a barrier to thriving distributed teams.


By Sococo | September 4, 2015 | Categories: Remote Management


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