Community spirit at work: Why is it important and how do we achieve it?

Research has previously shown that if we feel a sense of belonging in a group, then we perform a lot better as a team. When we enjoy spending time with our colleagues, we often have the same shared goals, and individuals tend to make more of an effort for the collective benefit.

Also, when we feel comfortable in our environment, we’re usually more confident when it comes to sharing our ideas and collaborating with others. Whereas if the group doesn’t work together or the team members don’t form a cohesive community with shared goals, successful results are unlikely to be achieved.

So how can we go about boosting community spirit within our workplaces? Having a sense of belonging is subjective, but there are ways that the physical environment can help facilitate this feeling…

Getting together is where it starts

The physical space we work in can act as a medium to bring people together – however it can also unintentionally keep people apart. Too often there are organisations that provide an array of breakaway spaces for relaxing and taking a break, but they’re rarely being used, due to the fear of managerial reprimand! If a company’s culture doesn’t support and encourage socialising and impromptu encounters, then employees tend to believe such behaviour is frowned upon and, consequently, they end up opting to remain chained to their desks. For this reason, the best physical workspace in the world may still fail to foster an all-important sense of community.

Regardless of the industry, creating a sense of community spirit can add value to business operations. Put simply, a team that works well together will deliver better results than a team that doesn’t work well together. However, there’s also proof that organisations that create and then nurture this sense of community can also inspire people to work more effectively.

Keeping together is progress

58% of respondents in our entire database of more than quarter of a million employees worldwide report that their workplace contributes to a sense of community. However, when we look at the highest performing workplaces on our books, the elite Leesman+ portfolio, that figure jumps to 72%.

If we look at the features where we find the largest satisfaction differences between Leesman+ buildings and the other offices we have surveyed, a more colourful picture of the importance of a work community can be painted. The biggest satisfaction differences are found in the following areas: ‘accessibility of colleagues’, ‘atriums and communal areas’, ‘informal work areas’ and the actual ‘variety of types of workspaces’. Looking closely, you can see that these features can all be linked to community – they are features which facilitate communication between employees and encourage people to move around and interact with each other. It is in these spaces that employees can bond and share ideas easily. A positive correlation can be drawn, then, between these physical areas within buildings, which allow people to connect, and a sense of community in the workplace.

Those that report higher levels of community spirit within the workplace are also more likely to agree that they work in an enjoyable environment, compared to those that don’t. In fact, there’s a noticeable difference; out of those employees who feel that their environment contributes to a sense of community at work, 84% feel that their workplace creates an enjoyable environment to work in, compared to 11% who don’t experience the same level of belonging.

Working together is success

A workplace or workplace culture that creates a toxic and hostile environment erodes team spirit and general engagement. While it’s not the sole factor in creating a sense of community at work, the workplace is definitely an enabler, sometimes an instigator and – unfortunately – sometimes an obstacle. Business leaders need to understand the varied effects the workplace has on people. Once there’s an understanding of the impact the physical environment can have on sense of community (amongst other things) – then employers can work with their employees to turn the workplace into an asset, as opposed to a liability. With organisations placing more and more emphasis on the workplace experience, a holistic view needs to be adopted in order to understand the workplace as a larger system where all the building blocks influence each other.

By Dr Peggie Rothe, development director, Leesman