A team I recently interviewed taught me about an interesting Swedish concept they’d adopted. Although they all work remotely, they stop at the same time every day to enjoy a cup of coffee together. This is ‘Fika’.
Whether this would suit your team environment, one thing we can all appreciate is the importance of spending quality time with those we love and care about.
Wanting to belong is a basic human need that we all share. Evolutionary psychology evidence suggests that it’s hard wired into our DNA. The positive impact that sense of belonging has on employee and organisational performance is significant. It can influence multiple positive outcomes including overall job performance, a reduction in people wanting to resign and illness.This suggests that individuals who feel they belong not only perform better but have higher levels of wellbeing.
On the other hand, for those that feel excluded, it can activate their “fight, flight or freeze” response from the amygdala in their brains, leading them to react in ways that are not always helpful. This response can drive increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol into the body, meaning the pain of social rejection can be experienced in similar ways to physical pain.
Making everyone feel included and maintaining strong relationships can be much more difficult with remote teams. Feelings of isolation and less face-face interactions coupled with greater uncertainty and anxiety can make it more difficult to foster a sense of belonging. But with greater intentionality, it is possible.
It starts with a process of open communication with your team around belonging and what this means to each of them. Engaging your team to be part of the conversation will bring a sense of belonging in itself as well as helping develop healthy relationships and psychological togetherness.
Here are some powerful questions you can ask to help understand your team’s sense of belonging:
- What does belonging at work mean to them personally?
- What has made belonging more challenging now and in the past? Don’t forget to share your own experience.
- Why is belonging important to your organisation and to you personally?
- How can you, as a team, develop a sense of agency in the future to deal with any feelings of exclusion?
- How can you empower your team to lead the change they want to see?
- What norms of communication will help make your team fairer, more inclusive and engaging to work with?
- How will you hold each personally accountable and committed?
- How might you and your team spread the impact of creating greater belonging more widely within your organisation?
A commitment to learning, and coaching your team to identify ways to enhance their own feelings of belonging and connection can make all the difference to creating a wider impact and a more inclusive organisation. The ripple effect can start small and spiral.