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How Belonging & Connection Leads to Engagement at Work

Updated: Mar 3, 2023

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” Brené Brown

As humans, we have an inherent need to connect and feel like we belong. We want to be part of a tribe, whether that’s within families, friendship circles, education establishments or the workplace. Brené Brown is not telling us anything new, this has always been the case, she simply brought it into our consciousness and put words to what many of us were deeply feeling. I would agree that she was instrumental in bringing the conversation into the mainstream.

What’s this got to do with our places of work?

Well, I am sure many of you have all experienced at some point the disjointed nature between your personal and professional life. That somehow we have to switch off our emotions, feelings and opinions as soon as we enter the workplace, even if we have something major going on.

There is a lot of emphasis on working on ourselves, being aware of what’s coming up for us when we are triggered or confronted. Whilst this is a good thing, I feel as though the pendulum has gone too far that way. We have forgotten to consider that we have created these often alien environments we call workplaces, so we can change them to nurture belonging and connection and become more human-centred spaces.

In many ways the pandemic blended our professional and personal lives together in a way that has not happened before. This has definitely changed things for the better, making us more understanding and accepting of each other’s circumstances. Our expectations have changed and as conversations and cultural shifts around leadership, workplaces, mental health and wellness take place in our society, workplace cultures needs to keep up!

Yes, we would agree that there is a lot of talk and focus on employee engagement, the term that describes the level of enthusiasm and dedication a worker feels toward their job. Whilst that’s great, what we see is a missing part which we don’t take into account.

And that’s, employee engagement is a by-product, a result of something else. What we are looking for and where the actual power is in employees finding belonging and feeling connected in the workplace.

The importance of connection

The importance of connection is huge, which is why the pandemic affected us all so deeply. We lost connection to our old lives, to other people, to our colleagues and to family as we went into lockdown.

We are only just beginning to see the impact of this, and as we all adjust to new ways of working, and workplaces adapt to a more flexible and hybrid way of working, nurturing connection and belonging is more important than ever.

On average we spend 40 hours of our waking week at work. Whether that’s outside of the home, in the workplace, or a mixture of the two, it’s a big chunk of our lives.

If we are not feeling as though we belong or do not connect to the people, workplace or culture we are in, then it’s no surprise that wellbeing suffers and productivity declines.

How to nurture connection and belonging in your workplace

When we talk about connection and belonging in the workplace, it has several layers to it. It’s not just about nurturing personal relationships.

Here is what we think every workplace should aim for to increase the connection and belonging and therefore employee engagement.

Connection to the vision.

How does your workforce connect at an organisational level? In order to feel engaged and like we belong, we need to feel connected to our company’s vision and purpose. When we lose this, don’t feel like we connect or cannot see how we contribute to it, that’s when we disconnect and feel unfulfilled and unmotivated.

We need to feel like we are part of something bigger, to a vision and purpose we believe in. Beyond that, is feeling a connection to the planet and humanity, to doing the right thing. When we connect with what the company is doing, it builds trust and loyalty.

Connection to others

Human connection to other’s is so important. We are a social species and having connections to others can help us to feel at ease, lower any anxiety, help with depression, lead to higher self-esteem and empathy and keep us physically well. This means being accepted for who we are, and what we believe, being respected and valued for our opinion. To know what we do matters and makes a difference.

Ultimately we all want to enjoy going to work, and much of that comes down to having a connection to whom we are working with. Think about how your employees connect with each other, especially when working remotely? And how do you nurture that feeling of belonging?

Connection and belonging to ourself

Connection to ourselves not only means being in touch with the worthiness and wholeness of ourself, it also means being aware of our feelings, thoughts, expectations, beliefs, passions, attitudes, energy, intuition and self-care.

It’s only when we bring an awareness to this that we can seek out the support we need. This is important for every member of the workforce, at every level from senior management down.

So how do you focus on belonging and connection as an organisation?

Here are some tips and suggestions.

To the vision…

You can do this by getting clear on your vision and purpose and doubling down on communicating it to your employees. It’s about enabling your workforce to understand where you are going as an organisation, and how they contribute now and in the future to its success and achieving its goals.

Aim for regular open and honest communications and one to ones. Building trust takes time, and it’s so worth it as it encourages a culture that enables people to speak up and want to contribute to.

To others…

Encourage people to build relationships and communities within your workplace. Research shows that close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50%* and people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work.

You could introduce a buddy or mentoring system for new employees, or those moving department or location. This will help them connect with others more quickly than leaving them to get on with it themselves.

Team building days, away days and social activities should be part of the yearly calendar and encouraged, as well as celebrations for achieving goals, reaching milestones and personal and professional successes.

To the self…

A workplace which gives their employees the opportunity for growth and inner work with a wellbeing programme shows that you are committed not only to your employees professional development, but also their personal growth.

A good wellbeing programme will offer a choice of options. This could be personal development courses, mindfulness or meditation workshops, or some kind of therapy. Having a mental health first aider on team can help sign post employees to access what they need and can help the organisation to shape their wellness programme, providing feedback and suggestions.

Another way of boosting an individual’s self-esteem and confidence is to focuss on their strengths rather than what they need to develop. Research shows that this gets a much better result. It works on positive psychology, when we feel good about ourselves and our abilities we will naturally perform better, be more confident and resilient. Rewarding and recognizing employees will build on this.

Connection and belonging is an individual experience.

Be mindful that what you consider to be connection and belonging may not be the same as someone else. Each employee will have their own version of what this means. For some it might be bonding on an away day, or an evening out. For others it could mean being able to open up about what they are dealing with.

This is why it’s so important to develop and implement a wellness action plan that takes into account all of this across your organisation, and one that all leaders are on board with.

This will go a long way to helping managers and team leaders understand their staff on a more individual level and

If you look back and think about a previous manager and workplace you loved working for, chances are it’s because you connected with them and they made you feel you belonged.

That’s why we have belonging at the centre of our wellness model. When we feel like we connect, we belong. That’s when employee engagement and the magic happens.

If you want to find out more about how KUUTCH can help you develop an integrated wellness plan to support belonging and connection in your workplace get in touch.

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