4 Ways to Build a Workplace Culture of Belonging in a Remote World
Updated: Aug 15
Developing closeness in a remote work world can be challenging, but when it’s done well, everyone wins. A shared sense of purpose and belonging is proven to foster better engagement, healthier company culture, healthier people—and healthier bottom lines, too!
From emphasizing the importance of open communication and providing virtual team-building activities to implementing effective employee rewards and recognition programs, here’s what you can do to nurture a sense of belonging in your workplace.
Open communication fosters trust and helps build strong relationships. It also ensures that employees feel heard and valued, which is especially important when working remotely.
Here are some things you can do to improve openness in the workplace:
Emphasize open dialogue: Use your remote chat tools (Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.) to set up channels for discussion or feedback, and make it clear that everyone is welcome to share their thoughts and ideas.
Encourage transparency: Ensure that all employees have access to the same information and are aware of what is going on in the company. Use remote tools to share updates, news and progress, and encourage employees to ask questions and offer feedback.
Check in: Regular check-ins allow managers to stay connected with their team and ensure that everyone is on the same page. They also provide an opportunity to discuss any concerns or issues and offer support.
Foster community: Create a “water cooler” environment by establishing specific channels for sharing personal stories, hobbies, and interests. Consider setting up virtual coffee breaks or social hours.
Provide tools and training: Ensure that employees have the necessary resources to effectively use remote tools. Understand that different roles and work-from-home environments will create different needs. Be prepared to offer individualized solutions and equipment (e.g. noise-cancelling headphones, virtual or physical office backgrounds, mail supplies and stationary, software, etc.) Consider whether new technology, such as virtual reality or augmented reality, can help your employees feel more connected and engaged.
Facilitate trust: A meta-analysis reported in Science of Work found that higher levels of trust lead to better collaborations, smoother interpersonal relationships and enhanced team performance. Some ideas for virtual team-building activities that help foster natural relationships—and better overall trust—include virtual social hours, cooking classes, trivia, scavenger hunts, games and puzzles or trivia.
Plan for growth
Offering opportunities for growth helps employees feel valued and motivated. It also helps them develop new skills and stay engaged with their work.
A study by the Association for Talent Development found that companies with robust learning and development programs had a 24% higher profit margin than companies with less emphasis on learning. They were also able to offer 218% higher income per employee, an especially important distinction in a tight labor market. Similarly, companies that invest in growth training are likelier to retain their top talent. A 2019 LinkedIn study reported in the Harvard Business Review found that 94% of employees said they would stay if they felt their employer invested in their development.
Companies needn’t develop in-house career and training courses. Research shows that providing access to external mentorship programs, management workshops or continuing education courses from colleges, universities and training institutes can all increase employee satisfaction, retention and performance.
Build workplace culture around recognition
Rewards and recognition programs can boost employee morale and motivation, and can also help foster a sense of belonging and community. Not only that, but they’re linked with lower voluntary turnover and increased productivity.
According to a survey reported in Small Business Chronicle, employee rewards programs and employee happiness are directly correlated, with 86% of employees saying they’re happier and prouder when they receive recognition at work. Indeed, rewards programs are a gift that keeps giving.
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Prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion
Much ink has been spilled about the business case for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and it is clear: diverse management teams generate higher revenue, have better retention rates for top talent and can inspire stronger consumer trust. But there is also a moral case for prioritizing DEI, with organizations like the Harvard Business Review arguing that companies should do it simply because it’s the right thing.
Here are some ways you can help your company improve its DEI:
Establish a diverse hiring process: Prioritize diversity by incorporating hiring practices such as blind resume reviews and diverse interview panels.
Implement employee resource groups (ERGs): ERGs are a way for employees with similar backgrounds or experiences to come together, connect and support one another in the workplace.
Provide diversity, equity and inclusion training: Providing regular training to all employees on the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion and how to be an ally can help create a more inclusive workplace culture.
Measure progress: Regularly tracking and measuring progress in areas related to diversity, equity, and inclusion can help a company identify what's working and what needs improvement.
By implementing these tips, HR and people and culture managers can help build strong relationships with remote employees and create a positive, supportive work environment.
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