A Virtual Community Doesn’t Have to Mean an “Almost” Community

Five months into this pandemic, we’ve all tried some form of virtual community at this point. From Zoom gatherings to group phone calls, WhatsApp group texts, Google Hangouts and more, we’ve all been part of groups trying to remain connected in trying times.

Like many people, you may have started out thinking of these as a “stop-gap” until we can get back together again in person. But the combination of the months going by and the relative ease of access for many regardless of location has led to a sea change. Many organizations are leaning further into the remote work world. With that, virtual communities will be a necessary and beneficial component in their workplace moving forward.

Building Bridges Leadership works with organizations to create authentic community in the workplace, whether that is in-person or online. So what are the key components to ensure that a virtual community doesn’t simply stay second-best to an in-person community? How do you prevent “virtual” from being “almost”?

This Week’s Tip:

Focus on building these core signs of a healthy community – Regardless of your formal role, you can impact your virtual community:

  1. Authentic – “Authentic” isn’t the same as being an open book. It doesn’t mean that everyone shares everything, with no privacy. It means there are no hidden agendas, that people are truthful and don’t need to make excuses or lie; they can be accepted, regardless of the ups and downs they’re going through. A good indicator you’ve found this is when you walk away from your interactions in the community feeling validated, known and understood, and that others do the same.
  2. Inclusive – A healthy community encourages self-expression and the sharing of your identity with others, incorporating individuals’ unique experiences and identities (“unique diversity”) as well as the group’s shared values (“diverse unity”).
  3. Outward-focused – What does the group do to contribute to the world beyond the community? Keeping this in mind and weaving it into conversations provides inspiration and purpose.
  4. Forward-moving – No-one wants to be part of a stagnant group. What opportunities does your group have to grow together, to encourage each other, and to welcome others to the community?
  5. Accountable – A healthy community values its members, and gives grace and support to fulfill on the commitments and promises they make. Doing so holds the individual accountable while placing value on the group’s support.

How are these core signs visible in your virtual communities? What steps can you take to build a stronger virtual community? If your organization would like more support in creating an authentic workplace community, contact us!

Try this out this week, and let us know how it goes in our Facebook group! We’d love to hear from you. As always, you can subscribe to our feed here, or sign up for our weekly newsletter to get these articles directly in your inbox.

Published by Ian Jackson

Ian Jackson is the founder of Building Bridges Leadership, which works with individuals, teams, and organizations to create authentic community in the workplace. He also writes children's fiction and teaches creative writing.

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