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How to Build Connections to Create Belonging at Work
By Jenn DeWall Confidence and Leadership Trainer, Motivational Speaker & Workplace Culture Expert.
Workers feel less connected to their co-workers than ever— with 65% of workers feeling more disconnected from colleagues than before the pandemic. This disconnection has a huge impact on productivity, employee well-being, and people’s mental health in general.
Why Is Belonging at Work Important?
The need for human connection and social belonging is hardwired into our DNA. When workers feel like they belong, it is better for everyone. It can increase job performance, decrease turnover, and even reduce the number of sick days taken each year. It is also important to remember that the “I” in DE&I stands for inclusion. It is not enough to focus on diversity. Leaders need to make sure employees feel connected and included in the culture at work. Leaders who build connections and foster belonging will have teams that feel free to share ideas, make decisions confidently, and have a 56% higher overall job performance!
What Can Leaders Do Better?
If you are a manager or in a leadership role of any kind, you can make a difference! There are three things any workplace can do to build stronger connections and create belonging:
Get Better at Onboarding. Creating a positive onboarding experience is the first step in creating a great employee experience. It is also the first opportunity a new employee has to start making friends at work, so make sure the entire team is involved. Building connections with colleagues is especially challenging for employees that started a new job during the pandemic and may have never met their peers in person!
Make it Easy to Ask for Help. Have a way for teams to communicate and ask each other questions easily. That could be a chat function, a shared Google Sheet, or a weekly standup meeting where you go around the group, and everyone shares something they are stuck on or need help with. Whatever you use, it must be a safe space, and there should be an expectation that team members respond respectfully and within a reasonable amount of time.
Have More Fun at Work! Don’t forget the importance of gathering your team for fun. That could be a team lunch, a weekly trivia challenge, or a group outing. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, but it should happen regularly. Giving people the opportunity to connect in a casual environment will strengthen connections and create positive relationships.
What Can You Do if You Feel Lonely at Work?
If you feel lonely at work, you don’t have to wait for someone else to do something. There are ways to connect with your co-workers and start feeling like you belong at work!
Check in with Yourself. Is this the first time you have felt lonely at work, or is it something that happens often? Are you new and getting to know people, or do you feel excluded somehow? Sometimes we develop negative beliefs about ourselves that make us feel like outsiders. Checking in with our thoughts and feelings can be the first step to making a change!
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone. Sometimes if we’re feeling lonely, we isolate ourselves even more. Try making a conscious effort to reach out to others. Suggest a team outing, or ask a co-worker if they’d like to go to lunch. It may feel a little scary to put yourself out there, but you never know if someone else is lonely too! You could be the person that makes a difference in their work experience!
Focus on Other Social Connections. If you feel left out at work, try focusing on other kinds of social connections. Spend time with friends after work or on days off, or join an organized group activity where you can meet people with similar interests. You might be surprised by how your outlook at work changes when you feel welcomed in another social group.
Jenn DeWall is a motivational speaker, facilitator, trainer, and podcast host. Jenn is a Millennial leadership and culture expert based in Denver, CO.