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6 Ways Connections Create a Sense of Belonging Anywhere With Any Workplace Working remotely can often have a negative impact on co-worker relationships. Here's how to avoid feeling disconnected.

By Lisa Patrick Edited by Heather Wilkerson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Luis Alvarez | Getty Images

With so many people working remotely, it can be a challenge to make real connections so people feel like they belong to a community. Leaders need to create safe places for people to bring their authentic selves to the table. It all starts with a connection and allowing people to be distinctively unforgettable.

Humans, by nature, have a primal need to belong. But a severe sense of isolation has become the bane of human existence. Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, the remote environment, while appropriate and practical for many types of work, was not conducive to building relationships among co-workers.

Related: 6 Tactics to Improve Collaboration for Remote Teams

The most successful businesses are run through real, authentic human connections. Positive relationships develop through common projects, but common values are what drive organizations to continually improve and serve their clients well. The bottom line impact is that being connected to others is not only healthy for staff members but great for business. People want to work with others they trust, even when they don't share common ground. They want to be valued for what they bring to the table and work with others they truly know, like and trust. These close personal connections create extraordinary and highly adaptable cultures.

With more and more businesses becoming dependent on remote and virtual operating platforms, business leaders are having to focus on not only the mechanics of business but how to build connections within and between teams. When some team members work from home and others work on-site, or everyone is working remotely, leaders need to develop and encourage excellent communication skills to build the business's sense of community.

No matter the means of conducting business, its ultimate foundation rests on the shoulders of the people within it. Customers don't build connections with the business itself. They build connections with the people who represent the business. And, the people who represent the business function best through internal connections. The challenge for today's leaders is how to create a sense of belonging within their membership or team. And it all starts with building a connection.

Related: 5 Ways to Build Team Culture in a Remote World

There are proven practices for building connections among team members. They include:

  1. Being vulnerable. When leaders show their real selves, others are prone to follow suit. People are more likely to open up about their desires for purpose, their skills, interests and their hopes within the realm of the business when leaders are transparent — when they share something of themselves. Start meetings off by sharing how you're doing and what's on your mind instead of delving directly into the agenda. Encourage others to do the same without taking the meeting off the rails. Allow real-life stories to enter the relationships between team members. I start all my remote team meetings with a check-in with my team.

  2. Recognize the positives. Make sure you are regularly taking time to recognize the awesome work of others around you. When staff members work in isolation, recognition of a job well done or amazing progress on a project is more important than ever.

  3. Create opportunities for one-on-one interaction. Even a 10-minute direct conversation held virtually can build a stronger relationship and increase the strength of that person's allegiance to the values and mission of the company and, of course, the work itself.

  4. Be present in the moment. Understand and value the difference between hearing and listening. When communicating remotely, we are surrounded by distractions. It can be challenging to focus on the conversation at hand. When we pause to clear our minds and actively focus on the conversations or matter at hand, we will make greater forward progress.

  5. Build trust. Trust is everything. Every relationship and team is built upon a foundation of trust. Investing time and effort in building trust is often the most impactful use of time. Whether communicating in person or virtually, ask people how they're really doing and open yourself to being trusted with their answers. Creating a safe place for them to be authentically themselves is a key element of growth for everyone involved — and ultimately the business.

  6. Be proactively inclusive. Everyone on the team should have a right to be heard and contribute. No one should be made to feel invisible. When people feel respected and valued by your reactions to them, they will become solid contributors to the company's mission.

Related: Worried About Disengaged Employees? Make These 7 Changes.

Globant, a digitally native technology services company, released a study on how to power a people-first culture. According to that study, 62 percent of employees wish they knew their co-workers better and 83 percent believe that knowing their co-workers better would make them a more engaged team member. It is the responsibility of leadership to develop the strategies to make this happen.

Entrepreneurial leaders who develop the communication skills to build interpersonal relationships with their team members and connections between team members will create a sense of belonging and continue to be the leaders of the future. Practice the powerhouse principles here and stay focused on collaboration. Bring your authentic self to every communication, live or virtual, and your business will reap the rewards of encouraging and creating a safe place for connection and a sense of belonging in the workplace anywhere.

Lisa Patrick

Award-Winning Brand & Business Strategist, Investor, Speaker, Author

An award-winning personal brand strategist & business consultant, speaker, multi-industry investor & author. She is the founder of Bravura Branding, a branding boutique specializing in helping executives and founders leverage their experiences and knowledge to remain relevant and profitable.

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