Creating a Sense of Belonging in Your Physical Workspace

Before COVID-19 created a seismic shift in how large companies work, many of those same companies were investing heavily in creating more engaging and playful workspaces. Gyms in workspaces had become more common, but there was an increasing trend for workplaces to include amenities like pinball machines, ping pong tables, outdoor lounge areas and more. These kinds of environments had the purpose of catalyzing a workforce that would value the organization in the long term – and perhaps also spend more hours in the office in the short term. Creating a healthy, productive and enjoyable workplace had become a multi-million dollar industry.

COVID has revolutionized how many of us think about our workspaces, but many companies are now in the process of bringing employees back to the office – even if only for one or two days each week. Whether or not your physical work space will change over the coming weeks – or whether you’re continuing to work remotely, or have been in the office the whole time – it’s always a good time for each of us to consider the physical spaces in which we work, and how they affect us.

A 2010 study from the University of Exeter in the UK concluded that employees who were allowed to design their own workspace were 32 percent more productive than those who weren’t. It’s perhaps no surprise that employees who feel comfortable in their workspaces are more engaged with their work. And a greater personalized self-expression in your physical work space (unique diversity) allows for a greater range of perspectives contributing to your team’s overall mission (diverse unity).

Clearly, a lot can be gained by putting your own stamp on your workspace. Of course, many employers provide conventional work environments with white walls, plain carpets, and standard decorations, but regardless of the workspace that is provided for you, you can make it your own. What are some simple, practical steps you can take to do that this week?

This Week’s Tip:

Spend some time creating your physical work space as a place where you can feel at home, comfortable, and self-expressed:

  1. Set up your space to be physically comfortable. Consider ergonomics, but also look at the level of natural light you’re getting, and clean air – the more, the better. Keep some plants in your work space if you can. If you are in a shared work environment, you may have resources available to you to support a comfortable physical space.
  2. Hang pictures or artwork that reflect your interests and passions. If you explored your creative side after last week’s post, you might have something to display! (I’ve been rediscovering a love of drawing, and hung up a few of my pieces this weekend.) Or perhaps posters of plays you’ve acted in, or a band you’re passionate about, or photos of places or people you love.
  3. Declutter and organize. This may seem obvious, but a disorganized work space contributes to a cluttered work process and an increase in stress. Take some time this week to reorganize what’s in front of you, and get rid of anything that’s unhelpful.
  4. Invite others on your team to personalize their spaces. You could even have a 2-3 minute “workspace tour” be a part of each team meeting (whether on Zoom or in person), allowing your team to show what’s meaningful to them – depending on your set-up this could be one person per meeting, or everyone together. Allow people to opt-out – remember, the focus should be on building community and self-expression!

Try these out this week and let us know how it goes – we’d love to hear from you. If you have thoughts or questions, contact us or post in our Facebook group.

Published by Ian Jackson

Ian Jackson is the founder of Building Bridges Leadership, which works with individuals, teams, and organizations to create authentic community in the workplace. He also writes children's fiction and teaches creative writing.

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