When all is said and done, we’re social beings and we need to feel as if we belong.

To our family, our friends, our running group or sports team; the orchestra, our knitting circle and, yes, even our workplaces. In fact, you could argue that because we spend so much time at work, it’s the most important place of all to belong.

Feeling accepted, valued and sharing a sense of purpose with your colleagues is not only  essential for your long-term well-being, but also helps to create a thriving organisational culture too.

Belonging at the workplace gives you the social license to be your true, authentic self, knowing you’re accepted for who you are, and you don’t need to hide anything. What that can do for an individual is incredible, releasing untold energy and potential that not only leads to increased productivity and innovation in the workplace but it also inspires and motivates others too.

Now, can you imagine what might happen if every single one of your employees felt this way? That’s what we’re aiming for when we say we’ll build a sense of belonging in a workplace, for all employees.

So how do you get there? Well, there are three areas to focus on, and they all combine to foster belonging.

1st Step to Belonging – Understanding Experience

Even if you grow up on the same street as someone, you’ll have completely different experiences in life that shape the way you see the world. There are shared experiences, of course, but the amount of nuance is limited only by the number of people involved.

When you expand this to the multicultural workplaces that we often see today, the variety of lived experiences is incredible, and the more an organisation recognises and honours this diversity of experience, the more people will feel at home working there.

Diversity of experience and thought also leads to better business outcomes too, so it’s absolutely worth pursuing from an organisational perspective.

2nd Step to Belonging – Accepting Trauma

Understanding of experience becomes even more important when you take trauma into consideration, and given the fact that personal trauma (of some kind) is extremely common, it needs to be factored into the workplace too.

Trauma itself can take many forms including physical, emotional or psychological abuse, neglect or even witnessing violence. All of this can have a lasting effect on your mental health and well-being, impacting your performance at work, and your relationships with colleagues. Additionally, organisations need to understand that trauma affects people in a variety of different ways including anxiety, depression, PTSD, and a range of other mental health conditions.

Becoming a Trauma-Informed Workplace

An organisation can address this by recognising the effects of trauma and fostering a safe, supportive environment where employees feel at ease accessing the resources necessary for their healing.

This can be achieved by offering mental health resources, implementing policies that support trauma survivors, and creating a culture of respect and inclusivity.

By acknowledging and accepting the impact of trauma, an organisation fully supports its employees which leads to a greater sense of belonging, increased job satisfaction and ultimately, a more productive and harmonious workplace across the board.

3rd Step to Belonging – Promoting Inclusivity

The last step to creating a sense of belonging in the workplace is centred around inclusion.

Employees need to feel valued and respected for who they are, and this can be facilitated by promoting diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, providing accommodation for employees with disabilities, and fostering a culture of respect and understanding. For trauma survivors, creating an inclusive workplace can be especially important, as it reinforces acceptance no matter what your history, no matter who you are.

And there you have a key insight, creating a true sense of belonging in the workplace, for all employees, is a multi-faceted process that can lead to a more positive and productive environment where all employees can thrive and reach their full potential.

It’s achieved by understanding the rich variety of lived experiences, accepting diversity in all its different forms, recognising the impact of trauma and becoming a more trauma-aware organisation. It’s a holistic approach that encompasses the entire organisation, but if you can get there, you’ll have created a workplace culture that supports and empowers all employees, regardless of their background, experience, or mental health needs.

And finally, if you’d like some guidance or assistance creating a sense of belonging in your organisation, we’d love to help you out.

Give us a call or click here and let us know, we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

By Esther van der Sande