4 Tips for How to Create a Sense of Community in the Workplace

Jan 26, 2023 6:00 AM ET
Coworkers talking and laughing at a conference table
Photo 155751228 / Work © Fizkes | Dreamstime.com

A company’s greatest asset is its people. This is not corporate jargon. As a consumer, you can feel this concept in action as after having a stellar customer service experience. As an employee, you can see it when you’re able – and, more so, encouraged – to bring your authentic self to work. Many companies have largely transitioned into remote working environments over the course of the last three years. As flexible work arrangements and technology tools increase and, as a byproduct, tangible work connections decrease, creating an environment that fosters belonging becomes especially important. It’s clear that the onus is on companies to figure out how to create a sense of community in the workplace.

"A 2019 study by Betterup showed that when employees feel like they belong, it leads to a 56% increase in job performance and a 167% increase in the likelihood they would recommend their organization as a great place to work. Plus, when a sense of belonging is not present, employee engagement can devolve by up to 30%, with even more negative impacts in other areas." — Katy Elder, vice president, Business Innovation, Points of Light

Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging

While diversity and inclusion goals have long been common benchmarks for companies, there is increased focus on the powerful concept of “belonging” as a central tenet of workplace culture. However, there are important distinctions between all three concepts.

Diversity means proportionate representation across all dimensions of human difference, whereas inclusion means providing equal access and opportunities and getting rid of discrimination and intolerance. Belonging means that everyone is treated and feels like a full member of the larger community and is given the ability to thrive. For employees, belonging has been described as that feeling of fitting in and being accepted as you are, your true authentic self, without fear of repercussions or admonishment. To create the best employee experience possible, all three of these concepts — belonging, diversity and inclusion — must coexist.

The New Hybrid Age

Building community at work can become challenging with all or many employees working remotely. For companies offering a hybrid approach, coworkers who see each other in the office may build stronger bonds than those who rarely or never meet in person.

So how can you continue to create a sense of community in the workplace? Here are some tips.

Corporate Commitment to Diversity

Community engagement through activities like volunteering, giving, employee resource groups and support for civic life offers an important pathway to building a sense of belonging among employees. Working with a nonprofit partner to map out a strategy that truly serves your workforce and the communities you seek to serve is a valuable step in this process.

When choosing nonprofit partners, grantees and impact investments, your company should consider selecting only those that uphold non-discriminatory practices and seeking out those founded or led by marginalized groups. This is guided by transparent, published processes and policies. Keep in mind that the beneficiaries of corporate giving and service are reflective of a diverse workforce.

“Points of Light has been a key partner in planning our annual Wasserman Foundation Serve Day projects for several years. This past year, the team created a smooth process from start to finish. We are so grateful for Points of Light and their critical work in making our Serve Days a success!” — Rica Rodman, executive director, Wasserman Foundation

Support for Employees’ Purpose

From newly-added “acts of kindness” to charitable payroll deductions to traditional or skills-based volunteering, employees are looking for ways to live out their purpose through their employer. Support for these activities helps develop that sense of belonging, especially when opportunities are created to build empathy and are fully accessible to employees regardless of ability, skill level, position or exempt status.

Providing ways for employees to act on their personal passions through matching gifts, volunteer time off (VTO) or setting up their own fundraising campaigns through a technology platform reinforces that the company cares about what its employees care about. When employees feel that their employer values people over profits, you can reap the rewards in retention, continuity and overall employee satisfaction.

Leadership Opportunities for Social Impact

Whether the company offers a network of Employee Resource Groups or Volunteer Councils, these leadership opportunities provide employees the chance to put the company’s values in action as well as their own.

Members of these groups are empowered to help drive local community initiatives as well as aid in more substantial decision-making for the company. While they build new relationships among colleagues and external partners and participate fully in what the company supports, they are able to connect meaningfully with their employer and colleagues and create allyship.

Celebrations of Diversity, Civic Engagement and Involvement

Connecting volunteer activities, giving campaigns or learning opportunities to moments in time like Veterans Day, Pride, Hispanic Heritage Month, International Woman’s Day or Juneteenth can help foster a sense of belonging among workers by publicly demonstrating the company’s support for diversity, equity and inclusion and proving that difference isn’t a disruption.

Allow space for employees to use their voice individually and collectively through virtual shared experiences or community programs. This aids in nurturing a sense of belonging within the organization, whether it’s respectfully challenging business norms, being asked for input on new business processes or taking a stand on a community concern.

Partner with Points of Light to Strengthen a Sense of Community at Work

If your company needs support with your employee engagement program, it’s essential to seek out experts in the field to help you achieve your goals with maximize efficacy. Points of Light’s Corporate Services Solutions exists to equip companies with the best-in-class tools, frameworks and customized support to design and implement employee volunteer programs that create a sense of community at work, all while serving the community in ways that are truly beneficial.

Reach out to our team of subject matter experts to discuss your needs and all the ways Points of Light can help.