Six Practical Ways to Create a Sense of Belonging in the Hybrid Working World
— November 26th, 2021
Human beings have an innate need to feel a sense of belonging; to feel safe and valued for who they fully are, to feel included and part of something bigger than themselves.
Given that a large majority of our waking hours are spent at work, it’s critically important to feel this in the workplace as much as in other aspects of our lives.
Without it, companies risk disengagement, loss of productivity, and turnover, while employees face potential loneliness, illness, stress, and underperformance.
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However, the new era of hybrid working has changed how we connect, interact and socialize as employees. It’s changed how we experience ‘belonging’ but not our need for it.
The loss of the ‘social glue’ and inbuilt connection opportunities we once took for granted means organizational efforts to ensure a strong sense of community and inclusivity are having to be adapted to meet our basic human needs too.
To help you adapt and keep your employees needs top-of-mind, no matter where they choose to work from, here are six ways that Internal Communication can contribute to creating a solid sense of belonging in your organization:
1. Communication basics remain key
Internal communication has never been more important for keeping employees informed, included and inspired in this chaotic, unsure, hybrid working world.
The core basics of good business communication still stand and must not be overlooked in favour of more fanciful tactics.
It is still vital that employees understand the strategy and direction of the organisation they work for and contribute to to feel that sense of purpose and belonging.
They need to know what part they play, feel that they add value and are both individually and collectively making a positive impact.
Additionally, employees need to feel respected which is where open, honest communication and transparent decision-making remain important in building trust and a sense of psychological safety.
2. Listen and listen some more
The world seems to be changing at every moment and along with it employees emotions, needs and opinions.
It’s well documented that employee voice contributes to high levels of engagement and feeling valued, so opportunities to listen to employees and meet them where they’re at needs to be prioritized.
Internal communication has a real opportunity to ensure their channels and culture facilitate regular opportunities for employees to share honest views in a safe and respected way, to speak openly about what’s on their mind, so they feel heard and a valued member of the community.
And when leadership communication is honest and transparent, so will employee communication!
3. Build in meeting socialization opportunities
The online meeting space of Zoom and Teams is now an accepted component of work-life, whether we like it or not, but it also presents a great opportunity to boost a sense of belonging if the focus isn’t solely on business topics and conversations.
Having time to socialize and chat about more personal news and experiences before or at the end of meetings, or even to have dedicated informal, social gatherings online can create and strengthen valuable bonds and relationships between colleagues.
4. Empower Managers
Managers hold the key to creating a sense of belonging across the organization as an employee’s experience at work is predominantly dictated by their relationship with their boss.
Cited as the most trusted source of support in the organization, Managers are often an employee’s first line of support and guidance. Internal communication can enable and support this relationship by gathering and listening to Managers' feedback and views from their teams — and ensuring they’re supported and enabled to keep their teams feeling informed and included.
Remote workers can often be overlooked, feeling forgotten and isolated as they’re out-of-sight and out-of-mind. They’re less likely to be recognized for their work, thanked for their contributions, or given any form of feedback.
Hybrid working reduces the chance of natural in-person recognition and appreciation, affecting someone’s sense of belonging and value.
Internal communications can play their part in facilitating and enhancing opportunities to recognize staff contributions and achievements by supporting a culture of recognition.
Think about how your Slack channel, newsletters, intranet articles, or Manager connections can all contribute to enhancing a sense of belonging by duly recognizing staff no matter where they work from.
Don’t forget to lead by example by building thanks and recognition into your own everyday working practices as you collaborate with colleagues too.
6. Make belonging everyone’s responsibility
To better communicate genuine support for the idea of belonging, make everyone responsible for creating a culture of inclusivity, care, and respect. Lead the way in advocating that everyone’s voice is heard.
Actively encourage and create opportunities for all employees to contribute to and participate in organizational efforts, communications, discussions, and events.
It can be all too easy to go to your usual sources for input, feedback, and contributions, to stick to the tried and trusted past ways, but with intentional focus on being inclusive, internal communicators can make a real difference and build a deeper sense of belonging for all their employees.