Belonging in the Workplace

Office vs Workplace

The difference between space and place has to do with the engagement we have and the community built within these locations. People can go to an office, but when we take our intention to build community and drive that action forward we are creating a workplace. An office is stagnant building where professional work takes place. Place, however, is a space that becomes relative to what exists there; place is used for a special purpose.

Placemaking is a movement to transform space by strengthening connection and inspiring collaborative interaction. When we apply this to our offices we can shape those historically drab cubicles into engaged and dynamic workplaces. Placemaking celebrates diversity and inclusivity but also fosters a feeling of safety for others so no one feels erased from the space.

When we cultivate the office to workplace it becomes a destination for team members to gather over a common goal. There is no better way to inspire a group of people to work together at their best than giving them a common purpose. It lays the groundwork for purpose-driven results based on your companies mission. This unification in the workplace will have people bringing their unique ideas forward with confidence. It will give each person a sense of purpose in the workplace community.


To understand a particular community, like the one in your workplace, we must know the people that the community is made up of along with the driving force that brings them together. Community can be simply defined as a group coming together over a common interest, but if that common interest is to see a paycheck than we can’t expect much in the scope of return. People in communities need to have a sense of belonging in order to contribute to the greater purpose of the groups work. Crucial aspects of building community are:

  • Establishing trust amongst the entire team.
  • Creating meaning by listening to what is meaningful to each person.

Welcoming voices of each staff members lets everyone know that they matter. Multigenerational, cross cultural and gender diverse folks in all positions of the company should feel their differences are a contributing factor not something that feels like a burden to an office. If people feel they need to tiptoe around difference or others can’t be their authentic self, then we aren’t going to see that person perform at their best. People shouldn’t be performing to fit in, they should be performing well at their job.

Intent vs Action

Intent falls flat when we don’t put action behind our words. Just because a workplace is talking about being inclusive and diverse does not mean it is a truly welcoming place to thrive. Commitment to building a space for all is the first measure we can make towards action. As a leader in the workplace it is your responsibility to meet the expectations of this commitment. Reputations and credibility start to unravel when a person keeps “intending” as opposed to driving action. Are cultural markers of your employees represented in the workplace?

You can participate in actively shifting the dynamic of the workplace even if you aren’t the boss. Being genuine, kind and expressing gratitude for others are great steps to building community. Advocating for more representation of your coworkers in the workplace will also influence the culture. Not everyone can advocate for themselves, the more each person steps up to celebrate what each team member is contributing the more the team will feel united.

If you feel like you don’t belong, take some time to reflect on why. Don’t sweep your comfort under the rug or dismiss your own feelings of isolation. Ask yourself what would make you feel like part of the team and how do you want to be seen in the workplace? As you define your feelings of belonging and sense of purpose the better equipped you are to start leading by example. Lead by example and treat others the way everyone should be treated. Try being vulnerable with your narrative, this celebrates our humanity and builds connection with others. If you feel you have tapped your resources, or if there is discrimination, be sure to tell someone. Everyone deserves to spend their workdays in a welcoming environment.