How to build and cultivate a sense of belonging in a remote/hybrid workplace
Updated: Aug 30, 2022
Working remotely has become a norm to many as many companies have shifted working from the office to their own space and it has been relatively difficult to adapt during the pandemic. It is vital for business owners as they would have to adhere to the Standing Operating Procedures (SOPs) in order to ensure the safety of their employees' well-being. However, some may feel distant or out of place working from home as they do not get to meet their colleagues face-to-face. So how are we able to feel a sense of belonging in a remote or hybrid workplace?
Despite the fact that employees are able to work flexibly, some may feel there is a gap as they are not able to converse or go to lunch with their colleagues as they are working virtually. Feeling a sense of belonging, which is when we feel safe and respected for embracing what makes us unique, makes us happier and more productive in a workplace. Furthermore, we are also healthier and better equipped to deal with work-related stress. Non-belonging, on the other hand, is one of the most significant predictors of turnover. Hence, building and cultivating a sense of belonging is important in a workplace for employees to bond virtually.
Checking in with your colleagues will make their day as we might not know how their day is going. For instance, scheduling a 15-30 min weekly session with your team may enable them to familiarise themselves with each other and help them to bond. Another factor would be making your employees feel valued and appreciated by giving them recognition. Due to the overall “out of sight, out of mind” issue, remote employees are more likely to receive less appreciation than others who are in the office. When we work in person with our colleagues, we praise each other after meetings, in the workplace, or over refreshments. Thus, making sure to point out during virtual team meetings when a remote team has done their task successfully will go a long way toward building a sense of belonging, empathy, and recognition for them.
An article by Forbes highlights on How to Sustain Company Culture In A Hybrid Work Model:
1) Shared purpose: It is vital for employees to be able to interact with their colleagues especially when they are working on a project together. Unlike working in the office, communicating virtually is not the same as meeting face to face as employees will not have the same energy of being together by experiencing a sense of common purpose about strategy, customers, or anything new in the company. Therefore, leaders must be proactive in establishing a purpose, discussing the large picture of overall objectives, and ensuring employees feel their job is uniquely tied to and important to the organization's success. Not only that, they would need to ensure that everyone in the team has a shared purpose- not just how a team member's work relates to overall performance, but also how the team's work as a whole is essential.
2) Accountability: While empathy and compassion are important, people must also be held accountable for their actions. Making sure to remind your employees that their work matters and how important their role is important to the team and the company is the key to an effective accountability culture. Leaders must ensure that effective hybrid cultures do help in the performance growth of their employees and teams as well as the organization as a whole.
3) Fairness: People who are not in the office may not have many opportunities to learn about the on-goings of the company. As a result, people will rapidly lose motivation if they do not have a sense of fairness and justice. In a hybrid approach, building a culture may need greater communication about how labor leads to fair and equal outcomes. Leaders should find ways on how to create inclusivity on how they should refer to their employees and treat their employees equally as those who work remotely.
4) Conflict: Issues will either blow out of proportion due to assumptions of inadequate information or miscommunication between team members or be buried because people choose to avoid them- which results in creating greater problems in the long run. Moreover, each individual will see things differently and it is essential to give people the chance to talk about and debate different points of view. Thus, with hybrid working, leaders would need to establish healthy disagreements, and allowing different opinions during team meetings can help move thinking forward.
5) Visibility and Accessibility: Visibility and being accessible to your team members is one of the beneficial ways to keep the team in place. It is important for leaders to keep their team in check regularly and encourage team members to have a closer relationship by pairing them on tasks and assigning them to collaborative projects. This will ensure that they are able to bond together and feel connected even if they are working remotely.
6) Transparency: Employees who work remotely will feel that they are out of place as they do not have the opportunities to pick up what has happened in the company. Leaders should have open communication on sharing constantly the ongoing activities that are happening in the company to ensure that team members are in the loop to know about as much as possible as it builds trust between both parties.
7) Social Capital: People struggle to establish it when they are new to a company or a job, and they struggle to sustain it when they don't see their colleagues in person. Strong cultures also have a complex network of social capital or interconnected networks of individuals within the company. In order to maintain cultures for a positive hybrid working situation, leaders would have to encourage their employees to build networks across different departments, provide cross-functional learning opportunities, and networking discussions with their colleagues during team meetings.
8) Place: People thrive on face-to-face interactions, and the workplace has several benefits ranging from productivity and invention to belonging and professional advancement. While the hybrid experience is likely to persist, leaders can also foster strong cultures by building environments that people desire to visit. Leaders would have to establish core hours or implement systems that allow individuals to communicate schedule information in order to maximize the amount of time they will be in the office together. Culture will be favorably affected when individuals are in the office together.
In a nutshell, whether working remotely or hybrid, leaders must create the effort that is necessary to maintain a positive culture. By making sure that employees who are working remotely share the same experience as that of colleagues who see each other in person every day. This is to ensure that they feel like they belong and stay connected together even if they are working remotely.