The Surprising Power of Simply Asking Coworkers How They’re Doing

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We humans have an innate need to belong—to one another, to our friends and families, and to our culture and country.  The same is true when we’re at work.  When people feel like they belong at work, they are more productive, motivated, engaged and 3.5 times more likely to contribute to their fullest potential, according to research at the Ernst & Young Center for Talent Innovation.

To better understand the emotional impact of belonging—and its inverse, feeling excluded—EY launched the EY Belonging Barometer study, which surveyed 1,000 employed American adults.

According to Karyn Twaronite, Ernst & Young’s Global Diversity & Inclusiveness Officer, this study, described in the March-April 2019 Harvard Business Review, substantiated existing evidence that exclusion is a growing issue.  The study found that more than 40 percent of those surveyed are feeling physically and emotionally isolated in the workplace. And, this group spanned generations, genders, and ethnicities.

When it comes to where they feel the greatest sense of belonging 62 percent of individuals look first to their homes, while 34 percent look first to their workplaces.  And notably, more people have a sense of belonging in the workplace than they in their neighborhood-community or place of worship.  So, since many individuals spend most of their time at work, creating workplace communities where people feel like they belong is imperative.

This study also indicates that many people want more connection with those they work with.  So, how can companies connect more effectively with their employees and help them feel like they belong within their workplace community?  The results of the survey pointed to one simple solution: establish more opportunities for colleagues to “check in” with one another.  That can be as straight-forward as simply asking coworkers how they are doing.

The study found that 39 percent of respondents feel the greatest sense of belonging when their colleagues “check in” with them, both personally and professionally.  This was true across genders and age groups, with checking in being the most popular tactic for establishing a sense of belonging across all generations.  By reaching out...

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