Relationships, a feeling of belonging and inclusion are usually concepts that figure in developmental psychology or the integration of migrant population into mainstream life. People go through challenging situations in different stages of their life but the need to feel good, accepted and rooted is not something that goes away with time or age.
When it comes to reaching out to a colleague or peer who is in the same working space as you, it is viewed often as networking. A means to further career growth and prospects for more opportunities. This is relevant and the importance given to networking is not unfounded. However, the need for connection in the places we spend a majority of our time in is an important part of how we experience, view and respond to the world around us.
Why is building meaningful connections in our workspaces important:
1. Being better informed about work wellness policies: Interacting with people from different departments can help inform work-policy of new perspectives. Talking to more people who play different roles means getting to know the ins and outs of why a certain harmful pattern at work happens the way it does, and what can be done to prevent this from happening.
For example: a space that is used to take smoke breaks during work may be very close to an employee who has lung trouble or is pregnant. But talking about this may be uncomfortable for the person it affects the most. Striking up a conversation to know how someone is doing can lead to learning new, startling facts about the office environment.
2. Providing much needed support in a time of need: Talking to a colleague in case a person’s home environment does not provide the support system the individual needs, or where the person comes from a domestic environment that is risk-heavy (especially when they are new to the town/city and have no network of friends to reach out to), sharing what’s on their mind with a colleague is often the only source of support for a person.
Through this, help for necessary interventions, sharing of resources to get through a difficult period and other modes of sharing aid are possible.
3. Not having a sense of community at work: A feeling of not belonging, not having a sense of community, can lead to negative psychological effects for a person at work. Feeling as if your role is not as meaningful as that of others, feeling left out and restricted only to functional communication can have a damaging effect on an individual.
4. Promoting organisational growth: Organisations require to grow to do well and survive. Sharing of ideas from different types of people, with varied interests, lets an organisation challenge itself and find new ways of growth.
When it comes to networking, it might appear as if being around like-minded people might be useful. However, it is important to acknowledge that each person is unique. Where certain identity markers (caste, class, cultural capital) allow you to stay within certain identity parameters, these markers shouldn’t stop you from recognizing that the experiences you share are the same as many others. There is much to be learnt from someone else with varied experiences of the world, too.
It is easy for a work model to stagnate and suffer due to a dearth of innovation. This is often a sign of a deeper disconnect within the organisation.
5. Feeling connected and good mental health: Connectedness is a key buffer that helps in protecting mental health. A sense of caring and being cared for in a space where you spend a majority of your time can make a real difference to a person’s emotional health and well-being.
6. Inclusivity at work as support: A sense of inclusivity or belonging for someone who faces a lack of acceptance in society - because of their sexuality, caste, being differently abled, living with chronic mental health issues - can be an immense source of support towards helping someone feel less alone, feel validated in their daily life.
7. Problem-solving through the help of others: Having a strong sense of connection at work can mean that a large part of the stress fallout from work gets space to breathe. For example, feeling stuck at work can be resolved by talking to a colleague who may have faced a similar problem before. Or, another person who you didn’t view as a potential mentor until you had an open conversation with them about your work experience while you were in a challenging phase.
Relationships, belonging and inclusion are the key tenets that move towards improving the emotional health and well-being of a person. In a scenario where a person spends a large part of their time in the workplace, having a supportive working environment can often be the very thing needed to help see someone through a tough time.
Other than this, integrating different kinds of people into a collegial atmosphere means growth and development for the company in a way that doesn’t feel dated and mundane.
(n.d.). Mindmatters - Home. Relationships and Belonging. Retrieved April 19, 2018, from http://www.mindmatters.edu.au/docs/default-source/learning-module-documents/j4383_mm_modulesummary-1-4-relationships-and-belonging-v6.pdf?sfvrsn=0
Bigwood, S. (n.d.). A Global Professional Women's Network | Ellevate. Positive Relationships Reduce Stress At Work | Ellevate. Retrieved April 19, 2018, from http://www.ellevatenetwork.com/articles/5702-positive-relationships-reduce-stress-at-work
Orton , A. (2012, November ). Council of Europe. Building Migrants' Belonging Through Positive Interactions. Retrieved April 19, 2018, from http://www.coe.int/t/democracy/migration/Source/migration/EnglishMigrantBelongingWeb.pdf