Why is it important for us to feel we belong in the workplace?

Avatar photo By Emily Kate Crawford

Belonging is the feeling of being a part of something beyond yourself, such as a group, community, or culture. It is the experience of feeling connected and accepted by others and having a sense of place and purpose. Belonging can come from various sources, such as family, friends, work, or shared interests, and it can provide individuals with a sense of security, fulfilment, and happiness. In essence, belonging is the human experience of feeling like you are a part of something larger than yourself, and it is an important aspect of mental and emotional wellbeing. The feeling of belonging is naturally fulfilling because it meets a basic human need for connection and social interaction.

(Picture taken from Education Library)

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a theory of psychology that outlines five basic categories of human needs for self-actualisation arranged in a hierarchical order. According to Maslow, once an individual has met their basic physiological and safety needs, they then have the capacity to focus on higher level needs such as love and belonging, which can then lead them on their way to ‘self-actualisation’, which refers to a person’s desire to reach their full potential and to fulfil their innate capacities and talents.

Self-actualisation can be described as a process of growth and development that leads to a sense of fulfilment, creativity, and purpose. People who are self-actualised are often described as having a positive outlook on life, a strong sense of personal identity, and a deep appreciation for their own unique talents and abilities. A lack of connection and acceptance can lead to feelings of loneliness, isolation, and low self-esteem.

According to research by BetterUp, promoting a sense of belonging in the workplace can have significant benefits for both employees and the organisation as a whole. A supportive and inclusive work environment can lead to improved employee well-being, enhanced teamwork and collaboration, and increased creativity and innovation. Belonging is a fundamental need for a human, and therefore carries over into a person’s professional life.

A person who identifies with belonging will feel protected, confident, and safe, allowing them to advance their performance as a result and is therefore a key component of talent development. Someone who does not feel like they belong may feel the negative attributes that come from the feeling of being alone, such as anxiety, sadness, and lack of confidence.

Coqual, a non-profit think tank, found that belonging at work is connected to four key elements:

  1. seen for your unique contributions – being recognised, rewarded, and respected by colleagues.
  2. connected to your co-workers – when we feel connected at work, we are more positive and authentic in social interactions.
  3. supported in your daily work and career development – so we can achieve more and live a full life.
  4. proud of your organisation’s values and purpose – feeling aligned with the vision.

When employees experience these positive feelings of being seen, connected, and supported, they are more likely to feel a sense of pride in their workplace. This is because they feel that they are part of a community that values them, and that they are making a meaningful contribution to the organisation’s success. When employees feel proud of their workplace, they are more likely to be engaged, motivated, and committed to their work, which can lead to improved job performance and job satisfaction.

Furthermore, a high sense of belonging in the workplace has been linked to:

  • 56% increase in job performance
  • 50% reduction in turnover risk
  • 75% reduction in sick days

(Engagement Multiplier)

The Cynergy Insights Platform was designed by us, initially to support Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust in starting a ‘big’ conversation across the entire organisation made up of 9,000 staff during Covid-19. The Insight Platform gave staff the opportunity to have their voices heard in a safe and confidential space, to identify what it was really like to work there, and what could be done to improve the existing organisational culture. It was also used to co-design a set of strategic organisational values that staff truly identified with, through interactive activities, to support the Trust in moving forward on their journey to creating a better workplace and an environment where all staff felt they belonged.

The feeling of belonging is an important aspect of workplace satisfaction and plays a significant role in an employees’ well-being and productivity. Cynergy can support your organisation or teams’ journey to belonging, by working with staff to identify specific needs and priorities, review the overall sense of belonging, understand how the organisation meets needs currently, and identify ideas and solutions where it doesn’t, from those with the lived experience.

Ultimately, a workplace that promotes belonging leads to improved employee well-being, enhanced teamwork and collaboration, increased creativity, and innovation, which positively supports inclusivity and recruitment and retention, benefiting both the individual and the organisation as a whole.

Get in touch if you want to chat about options to understand more about creating a culture of belonging in your organisation – we’d love to help.

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