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  • Luke Munro

From Workplace Wellbeing to Workplace Belonging

In front of our eyes, part of the workplace conversation is evolving, from workplace wellbeing to workplace belonging.  This is in part a solution to a new question in the productivity puzzle.  How can you keep your teams performing well when they are largely working at home, on their own? 

Now, more than ever, colleagues need to be inspired by the work they do, and clear about the value they bring to it. I’ve written before about the shift in our clients’ focus towards the mental health of their colleagues as a key driver of performance.  So, at a time when more and more business leaders are looking at a working culture which needs to be more flexible and less office-based, we have to build a sense of belonging and self-worth within our teams. 

When I started Wellworking more than twenty years ago, I actually called it something different – Home Working Solutions. That reflected my view at the time that the workplace was becoming a more flexible concept, and technology was enabling more and more people to do their jobs from home. 

Nothing’s changed – in fact that’s accelerated, and it’s done so exponentially during this pandemic. But the reason I decided 15 years ago to change the company’s name to Wellworking is also more relevant than ever today. I always say that we are everything about working well. How we work, and how happy, healthy and productive we are when we work, applies whether you are working from the office or from home, or from anywhere else. 

There’s an ergonomic challenge – very simplistically having the right tools to work well, and there’s a wellbeing challenge – again crudely speaking, setting the right environment for you to work well both physically and mentally.  The two aren’t necessarily separate things, by the way. But where things are changing is around how leaders are having to reimagine life after lockdown. Not just in the next 6 months, but the next five or ten years. 

This week, Barclays boss, Jess Staley, described big offices as “a thing of the past” in a BBC report.  Elsewhere, research from Colliers suggested that 8 million workers won’t be able to return to their offices under temporary social distancing measures.  So how do we help staff to continue to feel like they belong to the companies they work for? And why does that matter? It matters because if you feel motivated, inspired and energised, like you’re part of the team with a common and worthwhile goal, you work better. 

Breaking silos has been a key part of productivity improvements in recent years for organisations, but that’s a big physical challenge now, when, as Jeff Staley says, many staff are “working from their kitchens”. It’s also important because you want to keep your staff, and you want to attract other talented people. So they need to know that the work they do is valuable, and that you value them.  

At the heart of this is the ability to show colleagues that they belong to something worthwhile. Give them a clear picture of the common goal, and their part in achieving that.  Keep communicating, and try to make that communication visual where possible, through video conferencing platforms, for example. 

Of course, you need to ensure that the IT is good, and that they have the products and furniture to work well from home.  But just as important is to provide them with a clear picture of what success for the organisation looks like, and measurable goals as to their own part in getting there.  

This is, after all, still about doing a great job and building a career, so now is not the time to shelve training programmes, but instead, to look for ones which can delivered remotely, and help the team to grow. Show people what connects them to the team, and to the organisation. A person who can see the value of their work, and how much it is valued, will deliver better performance, whether that’s in the office or the kitchen table.

Luke Munro - Wellworking Managing Director

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