It’s easy to underestimate the effect of small day-to-day interactions on your overall wellbeing, whether that be a friendly conversation with the barista who makes your morning coffee, or the general office chat that was once the backdrop to the working day.

With remote and hybrid working models becoming more prevalent, these 'micro-chat' exchanges are becoming less common. But maintaining social connections - be that personally or professionally - can help ease anxiety, stress and prevent loneliness, as well as improve confidence, mood and self-worth.

Whether you identify as an introvert, extrovert, or somewhere in the middle, as humans we are fundamentally social creatures.  And one way to make sure you’re maintaining important relationships, whilst also progressing your career, is through online networking.

Professional networking through apps, online communities and video call meet ups can have a positive impact on our mental health for a number of reasons.

Your own personal support network

Having a selection of people you can turn to for help with issues at work is really important for your mental health.

Even if you love your job, there’s bound to be moments where your workload is challenging, a project is tough or you have a tricky relationship with a colleague. Talking things through with trusted peers can be really helpful - especially if these are people outside your organisation.

Listening to different opinions helps to gain perspective on your challenges, especially if you’re working from home, where it can be easy for problems to become all-consuming.

It feels good to help other people

It's nice to know you have a network of people you can turn to for support, but it’s also a great feeling to help someone else out too, whether that’s offering input on how to resolve an issue, or providing career advice. It’s human nature to feel good when we’ve helped people we care about feel better.

This is where online communities offer something that many feel that large professional networking platforms like LinkedIn lack. LinkedIn's popularity is also its weakness. This study highlights the changing nature of LinkedIn from 'professional network' to 'sales / recruitment platform'. For many senior professionals it has become noisy and many complain of being sold to all the time.

Private or closed groups or communities are usually much more focused on the problem solving power of the collective, rather than being a platform where individuals try to beat algorithms with engagement-bait.

There is more of a focus on listening to people on a deeper level and more reflection than social media platforms. Meaningful and valuable connections can be made and every day exchanges of help and support are common.

Online communities on Guild promote meaningful connections
Online communities like these on Guild promote meaningful connections through mutual help and support 

Being part of something bigger

One of the most rewarding parts of online networking, particularly when it comes to niche communities, is the sense of belonging it brings.

A group of like-minded professionals all working together towards a common goal can give you a greater appreciation for the role you’ve played in its success.

Being part of a collective goal, whether that is in a Community of Practice or Community of Purpose or other types of community, provides a feeling of ‘togetherness’ that many of us have missed since the pandemic hit and remote working became more prevalent.        

Finding the right job for you

Of course, the primary aim of online networking for business, for many people, is to help progress their career, and this in itself can improve your wellbeing.

Finding a job you love, which feels like the right fit for you personally, can’t be underestimated in terms of your day-to-day positivity .

Professional networking is not only great for seeking career advice, it can also help build relationships with influential people who can make introductions that could result in an interview for your dream job. And, just as crucially, networking with people can help give you an insight into what that company is really like to work for before you accept a new position.

When working from home, it can be easy to get your head down and get absorbed into your work. While this can be great for productivity, it can leave you feeling isolated from time to time, which is where online networking apps and online communities provide that element of human connection we all need.

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

More about online communities and mental health in the workplace

Find out more about the benefits of hybrid working

Get some ideas for team-building activities

Learn how community-based communications can help with anxiety

See how you can improve work/life balance with business comms apps

Our guide to the benefits of being a community participant

Professional networking tips for introverts

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