Teams of successful and inclusive organisations often attributes their success to the sense of belonging that they feel being part of the organisation. Belonging is not easily achieved even in teams that are working in the same environment all the time, working remotely or in hybrid teams makes the need for belonging even more pertinent. 

To belong means to feel included, accepted, and able to contribute fully. Belonging in the workplace means creating an environment where employees are candid, comfortable bringing their whole selves to work and able to take risks that drive innovation. It is achieved through creating psychological safety. 

A sense of belonging at work is the intersection of three key attributes: comfort, connection, and contribution. The more you can create a space where every team member feels a sense of comfort, a sense of connection and can be seen and feel as valuable contributors to organisational success, the better.

Why it is important? Belonging & Psychological Safety leads Inclusion and Engagement in the workplace which are key drivers of Performance and Innovation.

Feeling a sense of belonging, which is when we feel safe and valued for embracing what makes us different, makes us happier and more productive. We’re also healthier and better able to cope with job stress. Not belonging, on the other hand, is among the strongest predictors of turnover. The task of creating a sense of belonging among remote workers can seem daunting for organizations and managers.

Employees want to feel comfortable as individuals as well as connected to their colleagues and teams. They also want to feel like valuable contributors to organizational success. Here is how the 3 Cs of Comfort, Connection and Contribution can help you create belonging:

Comfort is about having a sense of ease, safety, and freedom to be yourself. You know how you feel when you are comfortable, you relax, you drop your guard and loosen up. Comfort can be a result of physical attributes, like being in a space that feels safe or having a chair that’s to your liking to work in everyday but psychological comfort is also a result of feeling safe to be yourself without facing repercussions. To create belonging both physical comfort and psychological comfort are key.  Leaders need to find ways for their team sessions to be as relaxed as possible like asking team members to dress down especially for the industries where dress code is a huge deal. Some of our clients have asked team members to wear t-shirts and golf shirts to team meetings and only dress up for client calls and sessions. 

Connection is a human need to be connected to others. So, one of the benefits of being in the same environment is simply that you can connect with other humans, connection is established over time with daily greetings, small talk, shared interests, and humour. These can still be achieved virtually but we must be deliberate about creating space for them. Healthy Hybrid teams understand that to work well together they need time to create real connections with each other. So regularly schedule connection times where the objective is to simply connect with each other. Even if it is not a separate time you can carve a portion of your hybrid meetings to people to breakout rooms in pairs for 5-10 min. This will go a long way to keep team connections intact.

Contribution: We all need to feel valued and valuable. It’s not enough to feel comfortable and connected, we also need to know that we are contributing to the overall success of the team; otherwise, we start to question our place in the team. The more people are invited to contribute the more they feel a sense of belonging. In a virtual/hybrid environment people can feel a lot like spectators than players. Healthy Hybrid Teams prioritise individual contributions and invite it. A simple thing to do is regularly ask different people to prepare and share something at every meeting (let people lead a section of a meeting, with warning of course) it goes a long way in creating a sense of being valuable.

The lack of face-to-face connection in virtual and hybrid environments has added a sense of being disconnected and disengaged with colleagues. Team leaders need to prioritise creating a sense of belonging and adopting the 3 Cs when engaging with their teams will help.

About the author of today’s Tuesday Tip – Buhle Dlamini

Buhle Dlamini is a globally sought after speaker who helps organisations unleash their greatness and create an inclusive culture. Request Buhle to talk to your team about the 5 Key Ingredients of a thriving hybrid team.

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