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Date posted: 02nd August 2023

02nd August 2023

Fostering Employee Belonging: How to Build Connection and Support

Fostering Employee Belonging: How to Build Connection and Support

A sense of belonging is crucial for employees, and fostering connection and social support in the workplace leads to happier, healthier, and more productive employees. According to APA’s 2023 Work in America workforce survey, most respondents find workplace relationships important and satisfying, but there is room for improvement in supporting employees’ identities and sense of belonging. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the significance of workplace relationships, as social isolation contributed to mental health issues. To combat loneliness and disconnection, employers can prioritize connecting activities, use structured strategies, establish team norms, and allow flexibility in defining connection methods. Being intentional about fostering connections is essential in today’s flexible work environment.

From the original article published in the American Psychological Association by Kirsten Weir.

Cultivating connection and community in the workplace makes for happier, healthier, and more productive employees.

Many people find social support, belonging, and community in the workplace. According to APA’s 2023 Work in America workforce survey, 94% of respondents reported that it’s somewhat or very important to them that their workplace be somewhere they feel they belong.

Many workplaces are doing this well: 89% of respondents reported they were somewhat or very satisfied with their relationships with coworkers, and 86% reported they were somewhat or very satisfied with their relationships with managers or supervisors.

But there is also room for improvement: 30% of respondents reported their workplace doesn’t support them because of their identity, and 20% somewhat or strongly disagreed with the statement ‘When I’m at work, I feel like I belong.’”

Finding community at work enhances employee well-being and company productivity, said David Blustein, PhD, a counseling professor at Boston College and coeditor of the book Rethinking Work. “Humans aren’t cut out to be alone,” he said.

Connection versus loneliness

Psychologists describe two types of connections: “Strong ties” are close relationships, such as family members and good friends. “Weak ties” are acquaintances, like the people you chat with at the office water cooler. Research shows that weak ties are just as important as strong ones to a person’s life satisfaction. And coworkers can be an important source of weak ties.

The uptick in remote work following the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the importance of workplace relationships. Social isolation during the pandemic was linked to an increase in mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. “Isolation at work is very likely a contributor to that spike,” Blustein said.

While lockdowns have ended, loneliness remains an epidemic that significantly affects health and well-being. And a third of respondents in APA’s survey somewhat or strongly agreed with the statement “I feel lonely when I’m working.”

But people’s experiences connecting at work vary widely. Recent data from research and advisory company Gartner suggests that for many remote and hybrid workers, teamwork may be stronger than ever postpandemic. “Hybrid work requires us to be intentional about creating connections, and as a result, the strong ties we have in work relationships are actually very healthy,” said Rich Cober, PhD, managing vice president at Gartner.

But weaker ties can fall by the wayside. Early-career employees might not have a chance to make small talk with senior leaders in the office kitchen, for instance. And the loss of those connections can make people feel disengaged from their coworkers and their workplace.

Read the full article and find out more on creating a culture of community here.


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