How much do you feel you REALLY belong at work?

When waking up in the morning, one of your first thoughts is that you’re looking forward to seeing everyone. You know your boss has been interested in your family, and will want to know how your daughter’s school camp was;  the lovely lady at the canteen will remember you like your cappuccino extra hot, and your team will check in if you’re OK when you look tired. 

Many of us spend more time at work than we do with our loved ones ~ and that’s the one thing we can’t reclaim, our ‘time’. 

At the end of our life, people will remember how we made them feel, not what we did! And we’ll remember vividly our sense of belonging, or not!

Everything we know about neurobiology points to the fact that humans are hardwired for connection and belonging. It’s in our DNA – a legacy from ancestors who only survived and thrived in tribes. 

In her book, dare to lead, Brene Brown talks about how we’re wired to look for connection with others, and not to ‘walk alone’! Amazingly when we feel isolated and disconnected, the same part of the brain is affected as if we’re experiencing physical pain. It’s that painful!

So it’s no surprise that feeling disconnected or lonely at work has some pretty dire consequences.

As work is such a large part of our lives, belonging there is vital.

Research released this week by San Francisco based startup BetterUp makes it clear that workplace belonging is huge for employee well-being and organizational functioning. It’s not a ‘nice-to-have’, but a ‘must have’, and should be at the heart of every strategy.

  • Employees with a strong sense of belonging perform better 
  • Employees with a strong sense of belonging are less likely to leave their company, and more likely to recommend their workplace to others 
  • Employees with a strong sense of belonging show up for work more, taking less sick days than their counterparts who feel excluded  
  • Belonging impacts financial performance and profitability

Pat Wadors (now Head of HR at LinkedIn) is also on a mission to bring ‘belonging’ into the diversity conversation. She speaks of 5 ways to help your people to feel a sense of belonging in your organization.  

  1. Pay more attention to feelings. Check in and ask people how they are 
  2. Ask employees to tell their stories ~ tell their belonging moments. Yes, speaking about our life outside of work matters
  3. Host town halls on sensitive topics to give sensitive situations a voice ~ create the emotional safety to explore tough topics. Perhaps someone didn’t come into work because of tension in their home/difficulty with a child – they didn’t actually have a migraine! 
  4. Offer bias training. If you have a brain, you have bias and it gets in the way more than you would believe possible. Bias training can open up some very valuable conversations and shatter some damaging baggage we’re carrying around
  5. Monitor feedback and find a way to track progress

Paying attention to belonging will pave the way to a thriving culture. If you’re not waking up feeling excited about going to work, perhaps finding ways to inject more belonging into your ways of working is a good place to start.

Cheers Alison