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Belonging at work

Belonging at work: recommendations for practice

Every internal communication programme starts with a baseline. It is therefore useful for IC professionals to determine where their workplaces are in terms of a sense of belongingness before they aim to improve or strengthen it. To make sure that belongingness for new hires is taken on board, IC can conduct an initial survey to design a programme that can lead a transformation. They can do this via a questionnaire or random focus groups in the organisation.

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Belonging at work

Belonging at work: conclusions of study

The workplace has changed many times and in many ways since the coronavirus pandemic introduced lockdowns in the early part of 2020. With so many lives taken and workers pressured to perform behind their screens while balancing families and careers, mental health has been put under the microscope. This includes an employee’s sense of belongingness.

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Belonging at work

Bringing it all together: The new model for virtual workplace belonging

This blogpost aims to bring together what I have found as what works, what does not work, the themes that emerged during my interviews and the internal communication strategies that design belongingness in the virtual workplace. I managed to bring them all together in a handy model I call the new framework for workplace belonging.

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Belonging at work

IC strategies that create a sense of belonging in the virtual workplace

Data shows that there are four elements that can make belongingness in the virtual workplace a possibility. It also shows that when the tangible structures of an organisation are eliminated, as we have experienced during the pandemic, those working virtually will have to overcompensate in other ways. Belonging in the virtual workplace setting is no longer about a place but about what makes up that place for individuals. It is about identification with the organisation itself and its people, mattering, being seen, and feeling cared for.

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Belonging at work

Surprise packages make us feel like we belong

The fourth dominant theme that showed in the interviews is Care. I chose the word Care as the overarching theme for when employees feel cared for. For example, employees appreciate receiving surprise packages on their doorstep and being given the feeling that their contributions are valued. It makes employees feel thought of and taken care of even from afar.

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Belonging at work

Tech can increase your sense of belonging

The third dominant theme that appeared during the interviews is Empowerment. I chose this word because these are actions that empower employees to do their jobs autonomously from home. It is an important element of the virtual workplace where employees are expected to be independent. These elements include technology, a good onboarding to an environment of safety and trust where they can speak up or make their own choices.

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Belonging at work

Belonging is organic

The second dominant theme that came out during my research is called Authenticity. This pertains to spontaneous, non-transactional, organic moments of connection such as chats before and after meetings, virtual coffee chats, small talk or virtual catch-ups, bumping into someone in the watercooler in a physical office, events that are serendipitous. I used the word Authenticity to code this theme because these are actions that bring out the authentic self in people and relationships.

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Belonging at work

Is your sense of belonging down? It must be your manager.

Support, referring to a human support network that is mostly led by the line manager in a newly-hired employee’s experience, is the most dominant theme of all four themes. This could also be performed by a buddy, a colleague, a mentor or HR. This theme was most dominant in the interviews with nine of the 20 employees interviewed and the second dominant theme for seven of the interview participants.

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