We Belong: How Togetherness in the Workplace Benefits Everyone

With so many people feeling isolated at work — as many as 40%, according to a Harvard Business Review study — it’s more important than ever to encourage a sense of belonging in the workplace.

Cultivating an inclusive environment is beneficial to employers: According to an article by Rebecca Fraser-Thill in Forbes, employees who feel that they belong take 75% fewer sick days and perform 56% better than those who feel excluded, who have a 50% higher rate of turnover than their happier counterparts.

Dissatisfaction in the workplace can often be traced to a lack of connection with coworkers. When employees feel like they belong, they typically experience higher levels of psychological stability, meaning, and even physical health, making inclusion an important goal. For the worker it can also lead to promotions, raises, and individual career accomplishments, according to Fraser-Thill, thanks to the increased motivation that feeling like part of a group provides.

Here’s what Fraser-Thill recommends to support inclusivity:

  • Create allies at work. When one colleague appreciates another, the detractors’ behavior can have less of an impact. While it’s always nice to get recognition from a manager, research shows that support from a peer tends to have a strong enough effect to make a difference.
  • Build empathy through experiences. Not all exclusionary actions are intentional, and putting ourself in someone else’s shoes can help show where those oversights are happening. Consider how to include remote workers, vary project teams with remote and on-site workers, or change meeting schedules and agenda design to ensure timing and structure is inclusive. Simple shifts often make a major difference.
  • Cultivate high-quality connections. During what’s known as a “high-quality connection,” according to Fraser-Thrill, everyone involved pays attention to each other and acts with positivity and care. Though you can’t control the behavior of all involved, deliberately modeling interactions with coworkers as high-quality can promote feelings of inclusion, an approach that often spreads.
  • Use verbal processing. Talking about exclusion has been shown to help ease the pain of being left out. Whether the excluded party is able to share their thoughts on how to make future interactions fair and enjoyable, or a colleague finds a moment to express their support, acknowledging what went wrong out loud can be a powerful tool.

For more information about workplace inclusion, please read Fraser-Thill’s full article, “Belonging at Work Is Essential – Here Are 4 Ways To Foster It.”