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Creating a Sense of Belonging

Tips for creating belonging, inclusion, and celebration in the workplace

Connection is important in every stage of life. We learn how to connect with others and form bonds from our earliest interactions. These bonds are essential to our development and well-being. This need for connection and belonging continues throughout our lives and is especially evident in the workplace. 

As the world of work continues to change, companies can examine how to create a sense of belonging at work. With more and more people working remotely, it can be challenging to feel connected to our colleagues and team members. Creating a sense of belonging is vital for cultivating a thriving, inclusive, and high-performing workforce.  Studies have shown that when employees experience a sense of belonging at work, they are more likely to feel connected, have reduced burnout, and feel more productive and engaged. Below are a few actionable strategies you can implement to create a sense of belonging at work for your employees.

What is Belonging and Why Does It Matter 

Belonging is the concept of feeling connected to and cared for by others. When employees feel like they belong, they have a  sense that their identities at work are safe, accepted, and welcomed. It’s a social need that affects all parts of life, from home to community. You can achieve a sense of belonging by ensuring employees feel accepted, respected, and valued. Creating a sense of belonging in the workplace influences both employee well-being and company productivity. Employees who feel a sense of belonging with the team and their role will have an increased performance overall. There are also clear connections between a sense of belonging and mental health. When employee mental health is supported at work, 46% of workers feel like they are better able to balance their work and life, and 31% of employees feel more capable of bringing their authentic selves to the workplace.  A sense of employee belonging can increase job performance by 56%, reduce turnover by 50%, and result in 75% fewer sick days. 

Allow Your Employees to Speak Up  

A key way to build a sense of belonging for your employees is to ensure they feel empowered to speak up. Encourage new ideas, feedback, and creativity from employees on all seniority levels. Acknowledging any employee who speaks up will show your team that their opinions are valued. Inspiring communication can also help ignite collaboration, boosting problem-solving and exchanging of ideas. 

Consider adapting an empowering leadership style approach to coach employees rather than direct them, and invite employees to regularly share input to help solve problems. 

When leaders invite employee feedback and take it seriously, their team  is empowered to contribute to organizational change. This establishes a sense of ownership over their work and with the company. 

Empower Employees to be Proud of Their Identity   

To strengthen feelings of acceptance and belonging, encourage employees to be their authentic selves at work and foster an environment where it is safe to do so. Managers and leaders should take time to get to know employees. Make space in meetings to ask questions about their values, hobbies, and personal communities to build empathy and understanding. In one-on-one meetings or skip-level meetings, be sure to take notes on the personal aspects of your employees' lives in addition to their workplace roles and goals. You can even add personal reminders to your calendar to follow up with your employees. A sense of belonging at work is fostered when there are trust-based and respectful relationships, participative collaboration, and mutual support for colleagues. 

Today’s workforce is highly diverse, and this diversity can provide your organization with unique opportunities for creativity and forward-thinking. Honor the differences, unique viewpoints, and individual considerations each employee brings to the table. Start by taking time to ensure that inclusive language is used company-wide. Consider taking your commitment to inclusion a step further by providing culturally-centered mental health benefits, LGBTQIA+ specific health care, built-in tech accessibility features, and prioritizing BIPOC leadership. It is also important to keep your job descriptions updated in order to better reflect the talents, knowledge, and skills of your individual employees. This will help to support a company culture that values and highlights the exceptional skills of your team members.

At the organization level, a strong culture of belonging is linked to meaningful work experience. This in turn leads to increased employee productivity and satisfaction, as well as lower rates of turnover.  In fact, 79% of non-managers and 81% of managers are more likely to stay at a job that considers and cares for their mental health and wellbeing. 

Encourage Diverse ERG Communities 

When employees don’t feel like they belong, it can lead to a sense of exclusion. To combat employee isolation encourage social connection on all levels. Employers can build healthier, more inclusive workplaces by supporting employees with similar interests and backgrounds to cultivate community together. . Receiving and building social support within Employee Resource Groups  can promote a sense of belonging and a nurturing work environment. This supports positive attitudes toward the company and builds organizational resilience. Employees may even find a mentor they wouldn’t have connected with otherwise! 

When it comes to creating a sense of belonging in the workplace, one size does not fit all. However, there are some key strategies and practices that can help to foster a sense of community for all employees. Consider supporting employees in making significant social connections by providing institutional support. If you have a group of employees who are interested in mindfulness, set aside a conference room for them to get together and meditate in. Or provide special breakout rooms in your next virtual meetings for employees who live in the same neighborhoods. 

Make Your Workplace a Psychologically Safe Environment 

Employees who experience symptoms of anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns may have a more difficult time feeling like they belong. Special attention should be taken to make your workplace a psychologically safe environment. This can include inclusive language, clear information about mental health care benefits, and even creating in-office support groups. Eliminate the stigma around mental health by providing a safe environment for  employees to speak up about their feelings. Difficult conversations may come up, but when employees feel secure, accepted, and supported, it’s easier to work together and find productive solutions.

Avoid Micromanaging Your Employees 

A sense of belonging is also cultivated through a sense of empowerment, recognition, and trust. To enhance trust between managers and employees, avoid micromanaging employees. Leaders that micromanage, take responsibility away from their employees. Practice allowing fully trained employees to make judgment calls on day-to-day work and make decisions about their projects. Have confidence in your team and give them appropriate autonomy. It will also build strong rapport if you let them know you are always there to support them if they need help. This will encourage employees to come forward with innovative ideas,  and it will empower them to do their best work. Feelings of success are tied to feelings of belonging. 

Add Extra Focus on Remote Workers 

With the sudden shift to remote work within the last few years, it’s important to pay extra attention to remote (or newly remote) workers. Recent studies have shown that pervasive feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and reduced well-being, which may have already affected many employees with traditional work arrangements, have been intensified by working remotely. To ensure that employees are not isolated from essential workplace relationships, create virtual social spaces where employees can connect and aren’t just focused on job tasks. Recognition ceremonies are another strategy to build community and highlight stellar work performances from your team. Virtual safe spaces like individual reviews and brainstorming meetings are also great ways to reinforce belonging affirmations. 

A sense of belonging starts with a feeling of safety, connectedness, and support. Providing comprehensive mental health support for your employees is a great way to start building your foundation of belonging at work. Request a demo to see how mental health care can help to support your employees and your company. 

Modern Health

Modern Health is the comprehensive mental wellness platform that combines the WHO well-being assessment, self-service wellness kits, an international network of certified coaches, and licensed therapists available in 35 languages all in a single app. Modern Health empowers employers to lead the charge in acknowledging that mental health is just as important as physical health, de-stigmatizing the conversation, and increasing accessibility of mental health services for all.