By Elle Balchin, Rehabilitation Consultant – OT
The idea of community and belonging is a complex one that has its roots in primitive human psychology – we are hard-wired to connect with each other because historically, we work better as a team than in isolation. But have you ever been a part of a group or a “team” that just didn’t feel right? Like yeah, it’s a group of people, we’re all doing the same thing in the same place, but MAN – the vibes are off.
The easiest way to explain this is that an institution, group or organisation is not by default, a community. Proximity doesn’t equal community; extended period of time spent doing things together doesn’t equal community. The major thing that sets a true community apart, is a shared sense of values that everyone more or less adheres to when working towards a common goal or engaging in a common interest.
Think of a community you belong to – whether this is a group of other school mums, a sports team or a church – think about the values you share with the other people in the group. You might all value faith, or hard work, or family or a combination of other things, but this shared set of values is what drives your commitment and connection to this community. It’s what wraps you up in a warm hug and says “you belong here, with us”.
A sense of community provides a platform for connection. By being relied upon, we recognise that we are able to rely upon others; by feeling connected, we sense we are able to connect with others.
Intuitively, building a sense of community can be done with similar steps to building connection.
Try asking your staff:
- How do you want this space to feel? How can we work together to make it this way?
- What do you need from us to be your best self at work?
- What does support look like to you?
- Workplaces with a strong sense of community and connection have high staff retention, better employee satisfaction with work and increased productivity – what have you got to lose?