Community is among the oldest aspects of humanity’s journey to modern day. Thousands of employees spend 40 or more hours each week at work in an office (or home office, which still counts), usually with the same handful of teammates and coworkers. Feeling connected to each other is not only beneficial to business success, but to our mental health as well.
Knowing that the relationships people form with each other are critical to mental health and successful teamwork, it’s important to create opportunities for building that community outside of your people’s day-to-day tasks.
The increasing landscape of hybrid work and dispersed workers has only made this more important when your employees are most likely not working face-to-face throughout the week, or have ample opportunities for water cooler chats. Chances are that you’re already incorporating community into your overall experience without even realizing it. But if you’re not, or unsure if you’re doing the “right” things, here are a few areas that we’ve pioneered at Reward Gateway to connect our employees and grow our sense of community.
|1. Create a culture of continuous recognition|
|2. Foster clear and engaging communication|
|3. Take time in meetings to connect as people|
|4. Host volunteering opportunities and events|
|5. Build extra layers of belonging among social groups|
1. Create a culture of continuous recognition
Everybody everywhere wants to be recognized for their hard work. In fact, in Reward Gateway’s Employee Engagement Trends Report, 66% of U.S. employees stated their work wellbeing would improve if they were simply thanked more often.
Using eCards to celebrate wins both big and small is a great way to bring employees and their leaders together. Birthdays and work anniversaries are easy targets – but they’re not enough. Reward Gateway’s State of Employee Burnout Report showed that 81% of global employees say it’s important to their wellbeing that they feel connected to their colleagues, and eCards are a fast, easy way to do that.
2. Foster clear and engaging communications with employees
It’s important for employees to understand how their day-to-day work contributes to your organization’s mission, as well as the values that fuel it. A regular check-in newsletter or blog – for upcoming marketing campaigns and social or volunteering events, as well as important company news – helps you keep your workforce engaged with their work – and with your organization.
3. Take time in meetings to connect as people
Building community at work requires that people engage as people, not just silent drones going about their day-to-day.
Sharing a human moment to find out how people are doing strengthens bonds and trust that they aren’t just a number or a cog in a wheel.
This can be easier in one-to-ones with managers simply opening up the conversation with, “how are you?” and then really listening before getting into the tactics and looming to-do list. For larger group meetings that I’ve run, I always have a “buffer topic” at the ready for those awkward few minutes as people are joining, maybe a new show or fun pop culture reference that some of our employees can relate to.
4. Host volunteering opportunities and events
Volunteering drives, events and opportunities provide your employees with ways to give back to their larger community – and signals that their employer cares as well. Corporate social responsibility is an emerging mission that employees are taking notice of, especially when it comes to choosing who to work with. Walkathons, bake sales, public space cleanup events and charity drives are all great ways for your employees’ community at work to expand further outside of the 9-to-5. We even have three extra volunteering days as paid time off within our employee benefits package to encourage more involvement across our global offices.
5. Build extra layers of belonging among social groups
Encourage your employees to form special interest groups to build community outside of their teams and departments. Book clubs, sports clubs and a communal hub for sharing pet photos are great examples of ways people to connect in meaningful ways.
Connect marginalized groups, like LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC employees, to each other and to allies for an extra layer of belonging for those employees. These communities help to reassure them that they are welcome and valued. At Reward Gateway, we named our diversity, equity and inclusion program the EP!C Learning platform. EP!C hosts a variety of training and resources for topics like how to address and recognize unconscious bias.
Our mission is a lofty one, to make the world a better place to work. But by building in small steps to foster a greater sense of belonging and creating these opportunities for our employees to feel a part of something bigger, we’re getting there, one community at a time.