When psychologists come to evaluate the impact of the pandemic in years to come, one of the key areas they will undoubtedly focus on is the great sense of isolation it brought for many.
With the switch to remote working, the lockdown, social distancing and self-isolation to name but a few, the virus has undermined many of the social groups we rely on for a sense of who we are.
Now, as we return back to work, many staff are worried that they will no longer be able to feel the sense of belonging to a job that they previously enjoyed.
Eighteen months of limited contact with colleagues or remote working has shifted our perspectives and in many cases left us anxious about what we might return back to.
So how can each of us – as individuals – work to make sure we feel as if we belong to our work in the future? Here are five tips which might help:
- Be true to yourself
One of the greatest barriers to feeling a sense of belonging is trying to be someone you are not. Often we mould ourselves into a certain personality because we think it is what the job requires, but this is unlikely to be effective in the long term and can lead to damaging feelings of imposter syndrome or lack of self-worth.
By understanding who we are and what we can offer, we can start from a position of strength and positivity, reducing unnecessary self-criticism and helping combat the feelings of inadequacy which can undermine our efforts to fit into any team.
- Be open minded
There’s always more than one way to solve a problem and the more we can understand this, the more we are likely to see the world through the eyes of others.
Being open minded means putting ourselves in our colleagues’ shoes – understanding their points of view, challenges and ambitions – and reflecting on how we interact with them. There could be many reasons, for example, that your idea was not developed at the team brainstorming session. By trying to understand what these might be, you are much more likely to develop the sort of empathic thinking which breeds a sense of belonging in yourself and others.
- Examine other areas of your life
Is it just at work that you are struggling to belong?
If not, then it might be that there are wider issues to address. A good plan might be to start trying to build broader relationships outside of work – joining groups, clubs, societies etc to start building confidence in your own ability to feel as if you belong.
But if you have a strong network of relationships away from work, it might be that it is something worth talking through with your management and colleagues to see if you can establish just what it is that is causing you to feel isolation at work.
- Don’t rush to judge.
If you are the sort of person who is quick to judge others, it might be worth taking a step or two back and seeing how you can change your outlook.
In any group of people there will be different viewpoints, different opinions, different political stances and so on. It’s simply inevitable.
As well as accepting yourself for who you are, try to accept others in the same light. Unless you can accept someone for who they really area, any sense of belonging will remain superficial at best.
- Put the work in.
Human relationships don’t just happen out of thin air. They develop and are nurtured through some effort and work. Make sure you engage with your colleagues when the opportunity arises. Show an interest in their lives and ask questions which show you are listening to them and understand their perspective.
By giving others this sort of attention, we show that we are engaged and interested in them. That is a very powerful tool in helping build a real sense of belonging.