Making meaningful, personal connections in the workplace

Our research shows meaningful human connections can spark engagement. When employees say they felt like they were part of community they were more likely to be inspired at work.

Organizational researchers use a variety of terms to describe meaningful connection in the workplace, including worker camaraderie, collective organizational engagement, and employee social capital. Ultimately, these terms relate to a feeling of common purpose and fellowship. This sense of personal connection goes beyond simple communication via phone, email and video conferencing. To feel meaningfully connected to people is to feel part of a community, to feel heard, valued, and to derive strength and gratification from that relationship. 

The HOW Institute has been studying the state of human connection in the workplace since early 2020. Over the past several years we have surveyed thousands of employees across a broad cross section of the U.S workforce, all of whom had been doing at least some of their work remotely.

smiling employees collaborating at a laptop in an office setting

Our Human Connection in the Virtual Workplace report found that feeling connected at work — to one’s coworkers, direct manager, and organization as a whole — is an important predictor of being not only engaged but also inspired at work. Survey participants who report that their business’s commitment to ethical leadership actively made them feel part of a community during the pandemic were 50% more likely to report feeling engaged at work. They were also 60% more likely to report feeling even more engaged since the start of the pandemic. (The survey defined engagement as being motivated to do your work and contribute to your organization’s success.)

We are also interested in inspiration, which goes beyond engagement. To be inspired means feeling deeply dedicated to and elevated by your organization and colleagues. Notably, the feeling of being part of a community at one’s places of work is even more strongly linked to inspiration than to engagement. Fully 120% of employees are more likely to feel more inspired when they say they are part of a community.

In short, connection speaks to the fundamental human need to contribute to something greater than oneself, to belong to a community that hears and responds to its members. As such, workplace connection is important in and of itself, but it is also a key factor driving motivation and inspiration at work.