I once worked at a company that had an actual water cooler. One of those old-school ones with the tank on top. Ironically it was the go-to spot for all kinds of catching up. Throughout the day, I would see colleagues gathering there to fill their water bottles while simultaneously keeping up the chit-chat.
More than just information sharing, having a specific social location allowed us to mingle with colleagues, build relationships, and form bonds that often lasted beyond the office walls.
Most of all, the water cooler was a place where I was welcomed and felt like I belonged.
What is belonging?
…and what does it look like in today’s working world?
The sense of security that we get from camaraderie is what makes trust, flexibility, and focus possible each day, and is created through consistent, positive interactions.
Belonging in a digital world means that we are thoughtful about the ways we communicate and practice empathy that allows us to fill in gaps. Sharing a cubicle has never been the cause of true connection, but oftentimes is the reason why people say belonging in remote or hybrid working models is more challenging.
Belonging is measured through connection, value, and shared goals. All of which can only be achieved through group work. If an individual team member is the only one focused on establishing company culture and bringing that sense of belonging, you’ll never see an impact across the organization.
How to build belonging within your org
1. Define your virtual culture
Culture is no longer beer gardens or ping pong tables. True organizational culture is defined by the unique experience that employees, clients, and vendors will have when interacting with your organization, inside or outside of your office. As a team, work together to define and record the values, priorities, language, customs, and benefits that set your group apart.
It is not enough to simply replicate in-office culture in a virtual environment. The world of work has changed and culture is no longer about how cool it is that a company has a nap room. The core of every company culture should be a shared objective.
Here are some other ways to virtually weave culture into your team’s efforts to drive feelings of belonging:
2. Work for a common cause
As a team, review your organization’s purpose, mission, and vision statements. Talk about how your team’s goals contribute to these statements and use a work hub like Qatalog to link goals with the right people, projects, and teams.
3. Start the conversation
32% of those surveyed said their company had never organized connection-building activities for their employees. Move beyond the passé virtual happy hour and try trivia nights which build better genuine connections.
4. Recognition and appreciation
Get everyone involved with communal celebrations. For birthdays, have teammates share a fun memory of the celebrant. For job-well-done awards, gather peer-to-peer nominations to encourage support of each other.
Related reading: What redistribution of credit means for corporate culture
Bringing trust into the office
How can you trust someone you’ve never met? Well, most of us do it every day with the people we spend the most time with - our coworkers. But 41% of employees said they find it harder to trust coworkers they have never interacted with socially. Trust is built on socialization, which is why you have to include it in your company culture.
The new way of work is shifting to a people-first workplace that is rooted in trust, flexibility, and focus. These three areas all level up to belonging. This sense of belonging takes on new meaning with distributed workers. Team members need to feel just as valued, if not more so, to defend against feelings of disconnection and isolation.
Read more → Language.work