Last month, in the wake of Hurricane Ian, we saw communities across Florida rally together. Now The Workplace Coach is reminding its executive and leadership coaching clients that community matters in the workplace too – and not only in times of crisis.
Just as strong communities are better equipped to respond to a crisis, workers who feel a sense of belonging and connectedness at work are more likely to excel in their jobs. They are also far more likely to be engaged and productive team members who remain loyal to their employer.
Unfortunately, many people today feel more isolated than ever, including at work. The question that many executives and leaders are asking our coaches is how they can create and sustain a sense of community at work.
9 ways to build community at work
Here are nine ways that executives and other organizational leaders can create strong, healthy communities in the workplace.
- Create opportunities for shared learning. This can involve programs such as peer coaching and mentoring, or simply sending pairs or small teams of employees to conferences and encouraging experienced employees to share their knowledge and expertise with colleagues.
- Elevate shared goals, values and accomplishments. Make it a habit when speaking with employees to emphasize the important role they play as individuals and as teams in helping your organization fulfill its mission. Celebrate individual, team and organizational accomplishments collectively and often.
- Support healthy teamwork. Focus on fostering open communication, mutual trust and collaboration in teams. Remind team members to share information with one another. Encourage team members to acknowledge and praise one another’s contributions.
- Cultivate a culture that encourages employees to support one another and helps them to form personal connections. One easy idea: Set aside five minutes at the start of meetings to catch up with one another at a more personal level.
- Facilitate connections for new employees. When onboarding new employees, find ways for them to engage with other employees. One idea: During a newcomer’s first weeks on the job, schedule lunches or coffee breaks for them with different team members.
- Be a leader who communicates regularly and often with your employees. Keeping employees in the loop is one of the best ways to build trust and help employees feel connected.
- Build bonds by creating shared experiences. This can be as simple as teams eating lunch together at a nearby restaurant; working together on a volunteer drive like collecting socks for the homeless, or supporting a local softball team. Consider hosting regular fun events like “first Friday pizza.” For virtual teams, make use of technologies that facilitate online hangouts; consider assigning a buddy or office-based mentor to remote employees, and find ways for virtual teammates to share fun together.
- Watch for signs that individual workers are feeling isolated. If someone seems lonely, bring them together with one or more of their co-workers, for instance by having them collaborate on a shared project, attend a conference together or partner up on something fun like a company picnic.
- Support the whole employee. Make occasional unscheduled calls to individual team members to ask, “How are things going?” Listen, show empathy and offer tangible support.
We need community now more than ever
A 2014 study found that nearly two-thirds of people lacked a sense of community at work. Since the pandemic, our sense of isolation at work has only worsened. This issue should matter to employers because people who are lonely at work are less productive, less likely to get promoted and more likely to quit.
Don’t wait for a crisis! While a crisis like a Category 4 hurricane is a powerful reminder that we all need community, leaders should foster a sense of belonging and connectedness in good times and bad so your team is strong when you need that strength most.
About The Workplace Coach
The Workplace Coach has deep expertise in business leadership. For more than two decades, its award-winning coaches have been partnering successfully with executive and leadership coaching clients and organizations to help them achieve their strategic goals. Leadership coaching clients report success in developing their leadership mindset and executive presence and in implementing leader-as-coach tools in the workplace to drive higher employee engagement and productivity.