The faculty of reasoning and questioning are the two important traits that define our success as a species. These traits constantly make us question the purpose of our existence and send us in a quest towards finding who we are and where we belong to. These questions are extremely important, as they give a meaning to our lives and act as the source for the curiosity, which is the driving force for our innovation, bonding and desire to achieve individually and progress collectively.
Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision… It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.
Since we as human beings spend almost half of our active hours at work, having these questions answered at work and workplace are crucial for ambition, teamwork, commitment and achievement in work life at individual, team, and organizational levels. When employees can find a common purpose and identity, they can work together, engage with each other, and produce amazing results.
What is a culture of belonging?
The term “culture of belonging” refers to a uniform thought and a feeling that employees at all levels of an organization get when they feel they can identify with an organization’s vision, objectives, core values and its purpose. This sense of belonging to the organization makes employees feel like a vital part of the team and encourages them to celebrate collective achievements.
Why does an organization need a culture of belonging?
Creating a culture of belonging amongst the workforce is crucial for the organization because it:
- Unites the workforce towards a common purpose and values
- Gives meaning to the work life of the employees
- Answers the fundamental question of why they are there
- Encourages employees to be self-driven, and makes them realize what they’re supposed to do without someone managing them
- Inspires employees to give their best
- Makes employees feel one with the organization
- Reduces employee turnover
- Contributes to the realization of the objectives and vision of the organization
If the organization lacks a culture of belonging, the teams won’t be cohesive. The employees will feel alienated, and they won’t be able to perform well and produce results.
Culture of belonging in a hybrid work setup
Since the pandemic, the dynamic of many organizations has changed– including how, and from where, work gets done. The average time that employees spend at the workplace has drastically gone down. Most workplaces have adopted a hybrid work setup, where portions of the workforce may be in-office and the rest are working from home or another remote location. This flexible work setup has become the norm now. While it has allowed organizations to sustain high productivity, it has created numerous challenges in fostering a culture of belonging.
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What are the challenges in creating a culture of belonging in a hybrid work setup?
Following are some of the challenges faced by the organizations that have adopted a hybrid work environment:
1. The workspace is not in the office premises anymore
In a hybrid work environment, the workforce is scattered. This model has moved employees away from each other, as they all do not necessarily share a workspace. It has taken away the possibility of one-to-one communication in person, distancing employees from each other and drastically reducing the scope for interactions, socializing and bonding with their colleagues. It has drastically reduced common ground on which employees can connect with one another and maintain good remote performance.
While there are ways to establish professional work-related communication in a remote working environment, a conventional workspace provides the scope for other interactions and discussions as well. So, the importance of being in the same workplace cannot be understated when it comes to creating a culture of belonging.
Some of the biggest challenges in creating a culture of belonging in a hybrid work setup are rebuilding those lost connections amongst employees, providing space for other interactions, and re-creating the feeling of being one community.
2. The influence of physical location
Being at a common workplace provides you with the advantage of bringing focus by isolating employees during the fixed work hours from the world outside the organization. In a hybrid work environment, while employees can have work-related interactions, there are limitations to how they can find focus and feel one with the organization, with the distractions that come with it. It is an inconvenience that the leaders of an organization have to work around in order to create a culture of belonging.
3. Loss of control over the culture
In a traditional work setup, the organizational culture thrives under the supervision of the leadership team that works hard to foster it. The culture of an organization has traditionally been designed and cultivated consciously in a conventional work environment. However, a hybrid work environment poses a different challenge. The leaders can have a strategy to bring in a culture in a sustained way through online interactions. However, they do not have complete control over how it evolves over the time, as they cannot always monitor all the online interactions and facilitate the discourses, since they do not happen under one roof.
How to develop a culture of belonging in a hybrid work setup
At this point, it is crucial to rethink how this culture of belonging can be created and sustained in an organization. Following are some of the ways a culture of belonging can be nurtured and developed in a hybrid work environment in the long run.
1. Encourage interactions and social bonding among the workforce
In a hybrid work environment, the employees are all in different locations and may not meet their teams in person. In such a set up, it is crucial to encourage building relationships through interactions, social events and informal meet-ups. You can identify and reward people with strong interpersonal skills who act as the mediators to create and strengthen bonds amongst the team members. Nurture their abilities and put them in charge of onboarding new recruits and integrating with the team, organization, and its culture. Leadership should always be present and accessible to the employees in a hybrid work setup so that they can facilitate discussions, encourage positive interactions, resolve conflicts and manage any issues that may arise.
2. Leverage technology to build a community
The same technology that enables people to work far away from each other can also bring them together. Build social channels that are inclusive, safe, and open enough for employees to share ideas and opinions on topics that are not necessarily related to work, such as their personal interests. Giving freedom and flexibility in work and creating a safe enabling environment to express freely go a long way in creating a culture of belonging in the organization. Invest in technologies that create an enabling online work environment where inclusion, free expression, and social interactions can occur.
3. Enable learning and career growth
In a hybrid work setup, there is a danger of stagnation in career and loss of motivation as a result. It is essential for the leaders to continuously identify the new areas of learning and improvement for each employee and help him/her learn new skills and abilities, so that he/she can add value to the work, contribute better to the organization and continue to grow as a person as well as achieve career growth. Success, growth and a sense of individual and collective achievement are key to developing a culture of belonging to the organization in the long run. While providing space for the employees to develop themselves, you can simultaneously look for ways to create new opportunities within the organization that match the employee aspirations and reward their professional development and skills.
4. Bind your workforce with a common purpose
Sharing the same purpose, goals and challenges bring people together. In a hybrid work environment, having a common purpose brings out self-motivation and a drive to take up initiatives to contribute to the organizational objectives voluntarily. It is essential for the leadership to step up and align the employees towards a common purpose that challenges their abilities and necessitates collaboration and teamwork to fulfill it. When the employees are aligned and know what they’re working towards, it brings out a uniform culture of belonging to the organization and its vision.
5. Ensure transparency and accountability
In a hybrid work environment, there is always a danger of incurring communication gaps, misunderstandings and misinterpretations. This can potentially create distrust and alienate the employees. So, it is essential to address these issues by making sure that there is transparency in all the interactions and clear communication strategy. It is also crucial to create a work culture, where employees take up responsibilities and are accountable for their activities, targets and the outcomes they produce.
6. Treat employees equally regardless of where they work from
In a hybrid work setup, some employees may work a lot more from the workplace while others may work from a remote location or home. Prioritizing the former and rewarding them more than the others or treating them better than others can create dissatisfaction and alienate a particular group of employees. Even though the location from which they are working may have an impact on the productivity of employees, judging them for their choice and practicing favoritism towards those who work from the office space can create a toxic work culture. It is absolutely essential to practice fairness in treating all the employees and rewarding them.
Overall, creating a culture of belonging in a hybrid work setup is a challenging task, as it still has some unanswered questions. The days of building a culture based on inferences and reacting to situations to create a change are over. In today’s world, it has become essential to be proactive, create the most suitable conditions for a culture to thrive, experiment with initiatives, and let the culture freely evolve.
To learn how Profit.co can help you transparently track your company’s top priorities and keep your team connected no matter where in the world they work, book a free demo with the experts at Profit.co today!