Press release

EY explores belonging in the workplace, with new Belonging Barometer study

New York, 1 November 2018

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Research uncovers that workers prefer check-ins and personal connections over facetime with senior leadership

While today’s social climate has been associated with controversy and disagreements, it also seems to be banding people together in a more positive way – surprisingly at work. Regardless of background, gender, sexual orientation or race, individuals are coming together in search of a sense of community and belonging, with many expecting and finding it within the workplace. In fact, in the context of work, research shows that when people feel like they belong, they are more productive, motivated and engaged as well as 3.5 times more likely to contribute to their full, innovative potential.

The new EY “Belonging Barometer” study uncovers how more than 1,000 employed adult Americans define belonging, what makes them feel like they belong at work and what makes them feel excluded in the workplace.

Key finding one: Diversity and Belonging are Workplace Expectations 

Nearly half of American workers believe that diversity is best represented at work and over a third feel the greatest sense of belonging at work.

  • Forty-five percent of respondents believe that diversity is best represented at their place of work
  • Second only to home (62 percent), one third (34 percent) of respondents feel the greatest sense of belonging at work, ahead of their physical neighborhood (19 percent) and place of worship (17 percent)
  • When asked in what ways do you feel like you belong at work:
    • More than half (56 percent) of respondents feel they belong most at work when they feel trusted and respected, with baby boomers feeling this way the most at 63 percent, compared to Gen X at 56 percent and millennials at 53 percent
    • Thirty-nine percent of respondents feel they belong most at work when they have the ability to speak freely and voice their opinion
    • One third (34 percent) feel they belong most at work when their unique contributions are valued, with White respondents agreeing the most at 36 percent, followed by Black respondents at 31 percent and Hispanic respondents at 27 percent

Key finding two: Regular Check-ins Prevent Workers from Checking Out
Thirty-nine percent of respondents say that when colleagues check in with them about how they are doing both personally and professionally, they feel the greatest sense of belonging at work.

  • 44 percent of women and 33 percent of men agree
  • This response was most popular across all generations, with 35 percent of millennials, 40 percent of Gen X and 45 percent of baby boomers agreeing
  • Across all generations, the “check-in” took priority over actions such as public recognition (23 percent), being invited to out of office events (20 percent), being asked to join a meeting with senior leaders (14 percent) and being included on emails with senior leaders (9 percent)

Key finding three: Is Exclusion a Form of Bullying? Women Seem to Think So
The majority of women (61 percent) believe that exclusion is a form of bullying in the workplace, the majority of men (53 percent) believe it is not. 

  • More than half (54 percent) of all respondents believe that exclusion is a form of bullying at work, 46 percent do not
  • 68 percent of the LGBTQ community believe that exclusion is a form of bullying
  • Fifty seven percent of Latino respondents believe that exclusion is a form of bullying, compared to 53 percent of White respondents and half (50 percent) of Black respondents
  • Generationally, nearly half of millennials (48 percent) feel the strongest that exclusion is not a form of bullying, compared to 46 percent of Gen X and 44 percent of baby boomers

Key finding four: The Emotional Barometer: Social Exclusion Makes People Feel Physically Ignored, Stressed, Sad and Even Angry 
When social exclusion happens at work, people feel physically and emotionally isolated. More than 40 percent of respondents across generations and genders feel physically alone, or in other words, ignored. Others also experience feelings of stress (26 percent of males) and sadness (28 percent of women). 

  • Generationally:
    • Millennials are most likely to feel ignored (38 percent), stressed (30 percent) and lonely (24 percent)
    • Gen X are most likely to feel ignored (41 percent), stressed (27 percent) and sad (26 percent)
    • Baby boomers are most likely to feel ignored (45 percent), angry (26 percent), stressed (21 percent) and sad (21 percent)

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