Hybrid working: how to promote belonging

With remote working set to continue, charities must make sure their staff feel a sense of workplace belonging, in this article Charity Digital explain their top tips.

The world of work has changed. With many charities introducing hybrid working models – a combination of working from home and in the office – it’s more important than ever that staff feel included and part of their workplace.

But what exactly does “workplace belonging” mean? Culture Amp describes it as the “feeling of security and support when there is a sense of acceptance, inclusion, and identity for a member of a certain group or place”.

It’s human nature to want to be included and part of something. And this is just as important in the workplace as it is in other aspects of our lives.

Why workplace belonging is important

It’s 17 months since the UK first locked down in March 2020. And, in that time, most of us have worked from home. With contact with colleagues restricted to video calls, it’s inevitable that some people will feel disconnected from their workplace.

Talk Freely says a lack of workplace belonging can affect motivation, morale, and wellbeing, and cause high staff turnover. On the flip side, Culture App says that “people who feel they belong perform better, become more willing to challenge themselves, and are more resilient”.

Research shows that belonging is closely linked to engagement. When people are engaged, they feel more motivated and committed to a cause. This is good for both charities and staff: it helps organisations to deliver their charitable activities and it’s good for people’s wellbeing.

Here are some ways to make sure hybrid working environments create a sense of belonging for staff:

Keep people updated

Strong communication is key. Keep people updated with news from across the charity, from team activities to decisions being made by the senior management team. When people are informed and know what is going on, it makes them feel more motivated and engaged.

Show them the bigger picture

It’s important that staff understand the strategy and direction of the organisation. When you feel part of the bigger picture and understand how your role fits into the charity’s wider goals, you’re more productive.

Make people feel valued

Create a working environment where everyone feels able to speak openly in meetings and can share their views. This will make people feel valued and show them that they can be involved in decision making. For example, if you’re reviewing your charity’s values, mission, and vision, get staff from across the charity to feed into this work.

But it’s not just about senior managers valuing staff. Everyone across the organisation must practice this. Gartner says “encourage employees to value others by caring for one another, advocating for everyone’s voices to be heard, and investing in their colleagues’ growth and development.”

Listen to staff

When people feel listened to, they feel valued. The Harvard Business Review says organisations should encourage staff to give feedback as this will show people they can contribute to changes across the organisation.

You could send out regular surveys to get people’s views on all aspects of your charity, from the way you communicate with staff to whether they understand how their work is contributing to the organisation’s mission and aims.

It’s important to remember that everyone is different and has different needs. Make sure you to listen to what individual people need and then respond to this.

Praise staff publicly

Talk Freely says it important to give praise openly as it makes others motivated to put in the extra effort. This drives engagement which in turns increases workplace belonging.

Bring people together

A big part of workplace culture is having the chance to socialise and chat to colleagues. The pandemic has stopped this from happening. Try to create social opportunities for colleagues to meet online, whether it’s an organised activity such a quiz or a quick 30-minute break to down tools and catch up.

Depending on people’s comfort levels, try to arrange opportunities for teams to work together in the office and see others in-person. This will really help to spark enthusiasm and motivation, particularly after not seeing colleagues face-to-face for a long time.

Be an ally

Forbes says having someone in the workplace who supports you can help you to feel included and have a sense of workplace belonging. The Harvard Business Review says being an ally means treating everyone equally and sharing your experiences of dealing with challenging situations.