We Feel at Home While at Work

EY survey finds employees rank work second to home as the place where they feel they belong

By Theresa Agovino November 16, 2018
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​In what is good news for employers, the workplace ranks second only to home for respondents to a new study by EY, who were asked where they feel the greatest sense of belonging.

What's more, creating that perception is relatively easy and inexpensive. Nearly 40 percent said that nothing made them feel more connected than when colleagues simply inquire about their personal and professional well-being.

'You need to check in to prevent your employees from checking out," said Karyn Twaronite, a partner and global diversity and inclusiveness officer at EY.

In a phone survey of 1,000 people, 62 percent of respondents said they felt their greatest sense of belonging at home, while 34 percent said they were most "at home" while at work. The new EY Belonging Barometer study found that the workplace beat out individuals' neighborhoods and places of worship, which garnered 19 percent and 17 percent, respectively, for where people felt their greatest affinity. Participants could name two places.

Twaronite acknowledged that the amount of time people spend at work contributes to their sense of belonging there. However, she added that in recent years, companies have endeavored to create more work/life balance, triggering people to be more open about their private lives. 

"Work has become more personal," Twaronite said. EY said that according to the research, when people feel like they belong, they are more productive, motivated and engaged, as well as 3.5 times more likely to contribute to their full potential.

It's not especially surprising that people feel comfortable at work, as they are typically surrounded by people who are engaged in similar activities, said Paula Harvey, vice president of human resources and safety at Schulte Building Systems, a Hockley, Texas-based maker of pre-engineered metal buildings and components.

"HR people work with HR people. Engineers work with engineers," said Harvey. "You have a common purpose. "

Millennials, members of Generation X and Baby Boomers all said that nothing made them feel more engaged than having their colleagues express an interest in how they were doing. The check-ins were more important than public recognition (23 percent), invitations to out-of-office events (20 percent), meeting with senior leaders (14 percent) and inclusion on e-mails with top executives (9 percent).

This surprised Harvey. "I'd much rather be recognized for my work," she said.  "We are at work to work."

Fifty-four percent of respondents said that exclusion is a form of at-work bullying. Exclusion can take the form of not being invited to meetings or after-hours events and not having accomplishments recognized.

However, certain groups were more likely to believe that exclusion equaled bullying. While 61 percent of women believed that, 53 percent of men did not. Nearly 70 percent of respondents belonging to the LGBT community regarded exclusion as a form of bullying. And while 57 percent of Latino respondents equated exclusion to bullying, only 53 percent of white respondents and 50 percent of black respondents felt the same way.

"I take a hard line on bullying, and to me it is much more intentional. I don't know that exclusion is bullying," Harvey said. "Bullying is a more negative term."

Harvey suggested that some people may need to develop a thicker skin, noting that they may not be included in a meeting because their expertise isn't required, or others may have more experience with the issue being discussed.

She added that the men in her office often go hunting together, and she is not invited. However, she is confident that she'll be alerted if any serious or substantial work items are discussed during the hunt. 

"I know they will come and talk to me," Harvey said. "It's fine. I don't want to go hunting." 

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