The concept of belonging at work has been getting a lot of attention lately, and for good reason. Most of us have felt like an outsider at some point, whether that’s at work, school, or even among family.
Initially, we may not realize how much this impacts our wellbeing. Over time though, feeling like we don’t belong can negatively impact our mental and physical health. It can even make us age faster!
So, is it really any surprise that belonging at work is crucial to employee wellbeing?
When employees feel that they belong in their workplace, it can significantly benefit the business, too.
Let’s explore why belonging at work is crucial to employee wellbeing, and how it can help your business.
Belonging improves mental and physical wellbeing
Belonging is so important that in her recent book, Age Proof: The New Science of Living a Longer and Healthier Life, Professor Rose Anne Kenny has a whole chapter on friendship, and another on intimacy.
Friendships and community can impact everything from heart disease to how we die. The significance of a sense of belonging really can’t be overstated.
You don’t have to live alone, or be totally cut off from civilization, to feel lonely.
If you don’t feel supported by the people around you, you can feel lonely in a room full of people.
On the other hand, if you feel like your team supports you, you’ll be better able to handle whatever life may throw your way.
The old saying “a problem shared is a problem halved” is actually kind of true.
It isn’t always solving a problem that makes you feel better. Sometimes it’s just letting it out and not bottling it up. Not everything in life can be solved, but knowing you’re not facing it alone can help you keep going.
Employees feel understood and supported
When you don’t get along with your colleagues, it can feel like nobody really gets your ideas or what you bring to the business.
And if nobody gets you, how can you properly explain what you’re trying to achieve? Or what direction you’re going in? Sometimes you don’t know what that direction is, but someone who knows you can help you figure it out. They can weigh up your skills and consider what you’ve done in the past to help you work through it.
If you can’t articulate what you’re thinking, someone on your team who knows you can help clarify. This can only happen if you’re working with someone who truly gets you and what you do, though. It’s important that you really do have a sense of belonging at work and feel comfortable enough to be yourself.
Empathy becomes a positive, not a negative
When you’re an empathetic person, your boss being in a bad mood can affect the rest of your day.
Even if it’s likely a personal issue, their bad mood can make you wonder if you’ve done something wrong. This can mean you spend your energy feeling drained, or looking for ways to help them. It can affect your ability to work and your relationships with those around you.
In a situation like this, empathy is a negative, because it’s negatively impacting someone’s ability to work.
However, when someone feels a sense of belonging at work, empathy can be a positive.
They can use it to better communicate with their colleagues. For instance, they’ll feel comfortable asking their boss if they’re okay without worrying they’ll be shouted at for checking in.
Encouraging empathy can also mean those who feel it more strongly can become some of your best communicators. They can then support team members with whatever they’re going through.
They could even become some of your best salespeople and marketers. Empathy can help them tap into what your customers really want and need in that moment, even if the customer can’t properly articulate it themselves.
Employees who feel they belong are more productive
In most cases, if you feel like nobody cares about you, you’re not going to try as hard. This applies in the workplace just as much as in any other relationship.
If you feel a sense of belonging at work, you’re going to want to do your best to lift up those around you. That could manifest as helping them, or as working harder so that you boost their output, too.
When employees feel belonging at work, they’re also going to put in more effort because they care about the business’s future. That just doesn’t happen in your average job.
So many people have a job just to pay the bills, but studies have shown that Millennials don’t want that kind of life. It’s about so much more than a paycheck – they want to feel like they’re making a difference in the world. And the way they pay the bills can be a big contributor to that.
Making employees feel a sense of belonging at work has nothing to do with hiring people who all think the same.
Instead, it’s about encouraging employees to be their true selves and embracing them for doing that.
With so many businesses claiming to be diverse and supportive but in reality, being the opposite, it’s important that you show—internally and externally—that you really do mean it.
What are you doing to help your differently abled employees?
How can you best support neurodivergent employees?
How can you make LGBTQ+ employees feel accepted enough to come out at work?
All these little things build into a sense of belonging that will lead to happier employees who stay longer, are better at their jobs, and are more productive in their roles.
If you’re looking to cultivate real belonging at work, send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to learn about your team and any challenges you’re currently facing, and explore ways our platform can help. With a full suite of tools to market, manage, and measure your employee initiatives, it’s easy to keep everyone connected and engaged. Drop by our site to learn more.