Belonging in the Era of Remote and Hybrid Work

November 30, 2023

Mark O’Reilly, Founder Fitvision and Leaders Connect, discusses social wellbeing and strategies to create a sense of belonging in a hybrid working environment.

The shift towards remote and hybrid work models has reshaped the dynamics of the workplace, bringing new challenges and opportunities in fostering social wellbeing and a sense of belonging among employees. While these models offer flexibility, they also present unique obstacles in maintaining the social fabric of the workplace.

Social wellbeing in the workplace refers to the quality of relationships and interactions an employee has with their colleagues. It encompasses aspects like respect, support, and positive communication. A workplace with high social wellbeing is often characterised by strong teamwork, open communication, and a supportive culture.

Understanding Social Wellbeing in a Changing Work Environment

Social wellbeing in the workplace traditionally relied on physical interactions and the day-to-day dynamics of an office environment. Hybrid models have transformed this, requiring new strategies to sustain healthy relationships and interactions among colleagues who may rarely, if ever, meet in person. Creating a sense of belonging in a non-traditional workplace is complex. Employees working remotely may feel isolated or disconnected from their peers and the organisation's culture. This disconnect can impact their engagement, motivation, and overall job satisfaction.

Common Challenges in Hybrid Work Environments

  • Reduced Casual Interaction: The lack of casual, spontaneous conversations that occur in physical workplaces can lead to a sense of isolation among remote workers.
  • Communication Barriers: Relying heavily on digital communication can lead to misunderstandings and a lack of personal connection.
  • Inclusivity and Equity Concerns: Ensuring that all employees, regardless of their work location, have equal access to opportunities and resources can be challenging.
  • Overcoming Physical Distance: Building team cohesion and a shared culture without regular in-person interaction requires intentional effort and creativity.

Strategies for Enhancing Social Wellbeing and Belonging

Despite these challenges, there are effective strategies for fostering social wellbeing and a sense of belonging in hybrid work environments:

  • Regular Virtual Check-Ins: Scheduling regular video calls can help maintain a sense of connection and provide opportunities for casual interaction.
  • Inclusive Communication: Leveraging various communication tools and ensuring that all team members, whether remote or in-office, are included in important discussions and decisions.
  • In-person Team-Building Activities: Organising social events and team-building activities to create a sense of camaraderie and teamwork.
  • Supports for Mental Health: Recognising the unique stressors of hybrid working and providing resources and support for mental health and wellbeing.
  • Hybrid-Friendly Policies: Developing policies and practices that support both in-office and remote employees, ensuring fairness and inclusivity.

Benefits of Fostering Social Wellbeing and Belonging

There is a myriad of benefits to increasing the social wellbeing within the workplace:

  • Enhanced Productivity and Creativity: Employees who feel socially connected and part of a team are more likely to be productive and creative. They feel more comfortable sharing ideas and taking risks, leading to innovation and problem-solving.
  • Improved Mental Health: A positive social environment at work can significantly reduce stress and the risk of mental health issues. It provides a support network for employees to cope with personal and professional challenges.
  • Increased Employee Retention: Workplaces that prioritise social wellbeing and belonging tend to have lower turnover rates. Employees are more likely to stay with an organisation where they feel valued and connected.
  • Better Team Performance: Teams that are socially cohesive and have a strong sense of belonging tend to perform better. They work more effectively together, leading to better outcomes for projects and tasks.


The rise of remote and hybrid work models has added layers of complexity to fostering social wellbeing and a sense of belonging in the workplace. While these models present challenges, they also offer opportunities to rethink and innovate how we create supportive and cohesive work environments. By embracing flexible strategies and prioritising communication and inclusivity, organisations can successfully navigate these changes and maintain a thriving, connected workforce.Mark O’Reilly

Founder Fitvision and Leaders Connect