The Five Pillars of Belonging: Why They’re Significant

BY Michael Stahl | May 11, 2023

Right now, David Bator is the managing director of the Achievers Workforce Institute, the information wing for the employee-experience platform Achievers. But at a previous time in his life, he worked for a different company, and had a boss that did not make him feel as though he belonged in the organization—at all. 

Bator was injured in a bike-riding accident on his way to work one day, and though in the moments after his fall, in which he suffered a broken leg and a gash above his eye that required many stitches, his first thought was, “Let me fix the chain on my bike and get to work.” Seeing Bator’s condition, a construction worker stopped him from doing so and, eventually, Bator served a two-day stay in the hospital.

Still, he worked remotely from his home as soon as he could, but his manager was so worried about a productivity drop that he ordered Bator to return to the office. Bator walked the office on crutches and paid for car services out of his own pocket for a month so he could commute to and from his job. 

At one point his boss stopped him in the hall and asked how he was doing. Bator opened up about his struggles managing the commute, his pain and his family, which included a couple kids, while recovering from his injuries. 

Then came the a-ha moment for Bator. His boss said, “No, how’s your work going? I only care about what goes on here.”

“Needless to say, I no longer work at that place,” Bator told a room full of guests, who issued a round of applause. He recounted the story at From Day One’s conference in Salt Lake City, where he led a workshop titled, “The Significance of the Five Pillars of Belonging,” the title of which was initially part of an Achievers Workforce Institute report.

“The definition that we came to out of that body of research was that belonging is an experience of connection, security and community,” said Bator. “And it’s really a feeling of being at home, without reservation, regardless of who you are, the job you do or where you do that job.”

In order to foster a sense of belonging across a workforce, per Achievers’ five pillars, leaders must ensure that they feel “welcomed,” “known,” “included,” “supported” and “connected.
 “These five pillars have a particularly elastic quality, to build employee experiences that engage our people,” Bator said. “Again, regardless of who they are, the job they do, how long they’ve been doing it, their level of seniority or, fundamentally over the last number of years, where they physically do that job.”


Starting with the first of the five pillars, Bator suggested leaders distribute tangible greeting cards signed by team members that welcome new hires to the company. He urged managers of new hires to make sure they provide recognition to a new team member within their first week of work in their new organization. 

“Do they have the opportunity through things like onboarding surveys, to reflect on the support and the resources that they received during their first 30, 60, 90 days?” Bator said. “These are all great instruments that you can use to drive that feeling of someone feeling welcomed when they join a team or, indeed, your organization.”

He added that efforts to help a worker feel “welcome” in the office should be extended to every worker, not just new ones, across their respective stays with the company—which, with this and other steps taken by managers, will hopefully be long and productive ones.   

“That feeling of being welcomed is about every space we share with anyone,” Bator said. “It’s about every transaction that we have at work. It’s about every room we walk into every experience. And so the challenge for all of us in creating conditions for hopefully award-winning employee experience, is thinking about what are the things we can do every single day. How do you make every day feel like a ‘day one’ for your people?”

According to research from the Achievers Workshop Institute, Bator said if employees are made to feel “welcome,” they are twice as likely to feel like they “belong,” too. If a given organization’s workers are anything like Bator was when he had his unfortunate bike accident, making them feel unwelcome will lead to all the pitfalls that come with poor retention rates.


In making employees feel “known,” at a baseline level, all it takes is a little bit of listening. Give workers a space to express themselves freely and when they do open up, take stock in their values and their needs and try to align with them and supply solutions when possible. This will enhance a worker’s sense of connection with their employer.

“Our obligation is to create conditions so that an individual can bring their whole self to work,” said Bator. “And on a tactical, practical level, this can look like a bunch of different things.”

Giving more specifics he said making workers feel “known” could be the byproduct of recognizing them for accomplishments and milestones, both personal and professional. Even something as simple as making sure managers know how to pronounce a worker’s surname could have an outsized impact because it shows care and attention to detail. 

“It means giving your employees the opportunity to use pronouns that express their true identity,” said Bator. “And you can only do [all this] if you begin to ask, and if you begin to create safe spaces for people to share who they are. When you do this, you build trust.”


Helping an employee feel “included,” Bator continued, may have the most significant impact in terms of nurturing a worker’s sense of belonging and better ensuring their engagement and retention. 

“It’s, ‘Do I have a shot here, to begin with?’” said Bator. “The narrow view, ironically, is when we think about inclusion through the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the things that we can do to create table stakes for every single employee. I think the broader view, however, is about creating opportunities for our people to share in co-creating what their employee experience actually looks like.”

He suggests building a safe space that gives employees a comfort level to not only make their opinions heard and acknowledged, but to also come up with “a great idea” and have it “heard by the right person in an organization.”

Data from recent Achievers Workshop Institute research said organizations that for feedback from their employees at least four times a year have 50% higher levels of engagement, Bator said, while 88% of those employees are more likely to feel valued.


To make workers feel “supported,” Achievers research says, give them a sense of empowerment tied to their potential long-term success by supplying them with necessary tools, training and resources. Provide them opportunities for professional growth and to have a healthy work-life balance as well.

“When I think about what this pillar really means, I think immediately of managers,” Bator said. “Whether you pick social justice, the pandemic, new modes of working, take your pick, your managers are on the frontlines with their people every single day. And what we see is that when an individual has a strong relationship with their manager, they feel individually resilient.”

Thus, they are more capable of overcoming challenges, a belief that aforementioned Achievers research shows many workers don’t have.


And calling back to the fifth and final pillar of employee belonging, Bator said, “At a basic level, what being ‘connected’ is about is: Do your employees have the opportunity to build a diverse network, inside their work circle and outside of their work circle?’”

He revealed that more Achievers Workshop Institute research shows that when organizations have connection tools, they are great at driving not only connection, but trust and support, as well as other worthwhile sensations. 

“But what I would argue to you is that connection is much more of a philosophy than it is a cool feature that you can share with your employees,”Bator said. “Fundamentally, it’s about: Is it easy for your [managers] to access the people and the skills that they need every single day so that they can be productive and positive from anywhere.”

It’ll be much less of a challenge for employees to sever those connections, with their managers, fellow workers and their general work responsibilities, if they don’t feel a strong sense of belonging. 

Bator knows this first hand. He has the scars to prove it.

Editor’s note: From Day One thanks its partner, Achievers, for sponsoring this workshop.

Michael Stahl is a New York City-based freelance journalist, writer, and editor. You can read more of his work at, follow him on Twitter @MichaelRStahl, and order his first book, the autobiography of Major League Baseball pitcher Bartolo Colón, at Abrams Books. 

(Featured image: David Bator conducting the workshop in Salt Lake City.)


Why Sleep Care Is an Employer Matter

At the acme of hustle culture, sleep deprivation was worn like a medal. Heidi Riney, MD, and chief medical officer at sleep healthcare provider Nox Health, is happy to see the bad habit fall out of fashion. “People would brag about not getting enough sleep, that they were able to achieve so much on just four hours’ sleep.’ Other times, the boast was, ‘I got eight hours, and I can’t believe I spoiled myself.’”Burnt out and hungry for work-life balance, workers have replaced “hustle” with wellness, and though it’s less common to boast about getting little sleep, people are still doing it, and their wellbeing, inside and outside of work, is suffering.From Day One hosted Riney and her colleague, Shannon Cyr, a behavioral scientist and SVP of Nox’s sleep care telehealth services, for a recent webinar on the benefit of sleep healthcare—and why it’s a workplace matter. They discussed the connection between a lack of sleep and worsening chronic conditions, emphasizing just how important sleep hygiene is.What Happens to the Sleep-DeprivedWe cheat ourselves and our health when we don’t get enough sleep, Riney explained. Our ability to concentrate suffers, so does muscle repair and recovery, and our immune system. Short-term, lack of sleep inhibits our memory, the ability to pay attention, our appetite, and the way we metabolize food. “Sleep is a very active process where a lot of incredibly important functions happen when we sleep, a lot of restorative functions,” she said.Dr. Heidi Riney, pictured, led the webinar alongside Nox Health colleague Shannon Cyr (company photo)Sleepiness and fatigue—or that feeling of moving through mud—show up after just one night of poor sleep, “and if you have a safety-sensitive job, that can be very challenging,” Riney said.If we’re sleep deprived for long periods of time, cognition, the ability to problem-solve, and the ability to make decisions can be impaired. Riney called sleep deprivation the silent partner to chronic diseases, often increasing the risk of “type-two diabetes, chronic systemic inflammation—which has been linked to things like cancer, heart disease, hyperlipidemia, or high cholesterol—increased risk of anxiety and depression, increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.” Sleep is so important to systemic health that in 2022, the American Heart Association added sleep to its cardiovascular health checklist.“When sleep is treated adequately,” Cyr explained, “then those chronic conditions that may be present in our patient, it seems to slow the progression of that chronic disease. In some cases, it also reverses some of the symptoms of those chronic diseases.”Generally, sleep-related costs constitute just a small portion of total healthcare spend for employers, but, according to Riney and Cyr, members who have sleep disorders often cost twice as much as those without, and constitute a substantial share of total healthcare spend.“Sleep disorders represent a hidden, overlooked, but remedial gap in care,” said Riney. “They represent a significant safety, health, and productivity issue for every employer.”Changing Sleep BehaviorCyr noted that improving sleep is often a matter of behavioral change—Nox tends to use behavior modification as its first-line therapy—and the results are not only quality and quantity of sleep, she said, but also quality of life.Nox Health’s model of proactively contacting members about their quality of sleep—Are you feeling more productive? Less fatigued?—makes it easier for members to track over time changes in sleep quality.That’s especially important for patients who work in transportation, Cyr said. “We want to make sure that they’re not accident-prone, they’re not working while sleepy and while they are driving heavy machinery.”Riney noted that a patient pushing their primary care provider to talk about sleep can prompt the doctor to start asking other patients too. “You can bring it up and say ‘I don’t feel like I am sleeping at my best,’ then list two or three symptoms that you’re experiencing.” It’s not a typical topic of conversation at the annual health check-up, they said, but you can make it one.Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Nox Health, for sponsoring this webinar. Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza is a freelance journalist and From Day One contributing editor who writes about work, the job market, and women’s experiences in the workplace. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Quartz at Work, Fast Company, and Digiday’s Worklife, among others.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza | September 28, 2023

Boosting Employee Mental Health By Building A Stronger Financial Future

In the U.S. today, inflation and high interest rates have exacerbated many people’s financial woes. Many Americans are dipping into their savings to pay their current expenses, rather than saving for the future.Financial stress can directly impact an employee’s mental and physical health as well as interpersonal relationships. The implications of such stress can be dire.In response, companies and leaders need to show their support in easing these concerns. During a From Day One webinar titled “Mind over Money: Boosting Employee Mental Health by Reducing Their Financial Stress,” From Day One contributing editor and journalist Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza hosted leaders in a discussion on financial well-being and how companies can help build financially secure futures for their employees.How Financial Stress Appears in the WorkplaceIn the workplace, internal struggles with money can come up in various ways. In a study by Morgan Stanley, researchers found employees burdened by financial concerns are nine times more likely to have troubled relationships with coworkers and are twice as likely to be searching for a new job.In the U.S., nearly a third of employees stated their financial concerns have directly impacted their work productivity. “These employees are struggling with presenteeism,” Kerry Symon, director of clinical partnerships at mental health solution company Spring Health said. “If they’re dealing with stress on debt, or staying out of debt, they’re not focused on work or on the culture.”Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza moderated the conversation between Stephanie Denton of Northstar and Kerry Symon of Spring Health (photo by From Day One)For employees with financial concerns, poor health can often follow. PwC’s financial wellness survey found 56% of employees said their financial concerns negatively impact their sleep, with 44% stating it had also impacted their physical health as well. “When employees are trying to cope with financial stress, they are more likely to have digestive issues, headaches, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, anxiety, and are more susceptible to getting sick,” Symon added.These health issues not only increase absences but can cause employees to further lose opportunities to connect with their coworkers. “When they’re not at work, they’re not connecting with their co-workers,” Symon said. “If they’re not going out to lunch with them because of their fear of spending money, this makes them feel more isolated and can exacerbate the levels of depression.”Supporting Employees Financially Through BenefitsTo help employees alleviate their financial stress, leaders can lean on their benefits. In addition to common benefits like mental health benefits and paid leave, companies can offer targeted financial benefits that are more tailored to their employee needs.“Transportation benefits, tuition reimbursement, child care assistance are all great benefits to add,” Stephanie Denton, director of people and talent at financial wellness program Northstar, said. “If you have an office in New York, which can be expensive to get to and from places, you can pay for transportation perks. You really want to make sure that the benefits that you do offer reflect what your employee population needs.”Along with traditional retirement matching and company stock options, employees are seeking more benefits that support them directly financially. A study on employees’ well-being discovered that nearly 75% of employees state they aren’t satisfied with their company’s financial benefits and aren’t utilizing them. For companies and leaders, this not only means wasted resources but an immediate need to upgrade and reevaluate their offerings.“You want to meet employees where they are in their financial journey because everyone has a different level of financial knowledge. You want to make sure that whatever solution you’re providing meets all of those needs,” Denton said. “If [the information] is too much or too little for what they need or if it's not going to help them, employees will disengage immediately.”For cases like this, Denton recommends companies work with a financial wellness partner like Northstar that provides one-on-one advisor services to employees to help them make smart, financial decisions.“Most people don't have financial advisors that they can talk to. If you are not understanding the impact of the decisions that you’re making financially, you could have potentially bigger issues to navigate further down the line,” Denton said. “Having the professional come in to talk can help navigate that because they're getting to know you personally. These [advisors] can help them guide you to make decisions that make the most sense for you for your specific situation.”Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partners, Northstar and Spring Health, for sponsoring this webinar. Wanly Chen is a writer and poet based in New York City.

Wanly Chen | September 18, 2023

Quantifying Care: How E4E Relief Is Making a Difference in Emergency Financial Relief

“This grant was a ray of light,” declared a worker who received emergency financial relief after a recent natural disaster. “The stress that comes with this is terrible, and this is the first time in my life that I’ve felt like somebody cares.” The worker, quoted by E4E Relief, a nonprofit that helps employers support workers in times of crisis, spoke for many of his colleagues as well. “Every time there is a hurricane and a business has to close down for a couple of days, employees, who are often living paycheck-to-paycheck, lose their scheduled hours and income.”Testimonials like this are abundant among recipients of emergency financial relief, yet companies who partner with programs like E4E Relief’s want to quantify the impact of their investment. With that in mind, E4E has launched a new program, ImpactStack, to conduct industry-leading research to quantify the incidental business outcomes of the financial relief work that their team has carried out for more than 20 years. The impact stretches across a range of social and business metrics that matter regardless of industry, geography, demographic, or crisis. The insights are then integrated into business intelligence that provides companies with insights about the outcomes that key stakeholders achieve through financial relief.Holly Welch Stubbing, E4E Relief’s president and CEO, says the new research confirms the significant impact of their program: “81% of grant recipients regained financial stability. 54% experienced improved mental well-being. 70% said that it helped them return to or maintain productivity at work. 52% said that they had increased engagement [at work], and 76% had a more positive perception of their employer.”From Day One recently interviewed Welch Stubbing to get an inside look at how ImpactStack collects and analyzes information about relief recipients at a time when employees need additional support for a multiplicity of reasons, including climate disasters, geopolitical disruptions, and economic conditions. Excerpts:Q: What is ImpactStack, and how did E4E Relief get started with it? How does it work?A: ImpactStack is our proprietary framework, insights, and business intelligence associated with providing the social and business outcomes of grants to individuals. Holly Welch Stubbing of E4E Relief shared insights from their recently launched program, ImpactStack (company photo)During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when our volume went up as companies really started grasping employee relief, we started doing outcomes-based research. While it was arguably a crazy time to launch, it also was a great time to launch from the standpoint of trying to assess need. We needed to know if the money being sent was really making a difference. I suspected it was, since we already had a lot of qualitative information from our grantees. We had stories and hundreds of notes, handwritten or sent via email, where people would articulate what happened to them and thank our team. However, I wanted that to be something quantitative and something we could make available to the companies we’re working with to show the outcomes of their philanthropic investment.I have been in the foundation world for 27 years, and the conversation is constantly, are our grants making a difference? How are we investing in these institutions to drive out a set of outcomes? Trying to ensure those institutions have the capacity, resources, and technology is extremely complicated and difficult. In our work, we have a real chance of getting real information from people who are receiving these grants. And so I thought, could we design something that meets the quantitative expectations of companies? And could we make that available in the form of insights as part of our solution? So in June, that’s what we did, and we expanded on the surveys we created, which had a focus on financial well-being, to map outcomes based on criteria that Fortune 500 clients would recognize. We wanted them to immediately see the relevance and understand the significance of the impact.Q: Were there any surprises in the data about impact?A: I was surprised at how high some of these scores were, particularly in our productivity results. 70% of our grant recipients were able to maintain productivity at work. And 54% ─ more than half the people we are granting to ─ have an improved mental state. That’s something. I expected engagement to be higher. The deeper you go into the social outcomes data ─ the housing, food, demographic data ─ that’s where there will be additional insights. And while that data isn’t available to our corporate partners yet, we’re working on it because it’s important and it shows a lot.Q: How does ImpactStack support E4E Relief’s goals and company philosophy?A: It’s central to who we are. Employee relief programs continue to gain importance, and organizations are trying to decide if it’s something they want to stack into their mix of workforce offerings. It’s hard to justify those investments without really understanding, ‘What is this doing?’ My hope is that, as our organization evolves and as we get more information, we can then provide a set of insights about what it looks like to be a financial first responder. There are all kinds of studies going on around meaningful support for the low to moderate income worker. And in the midst of natural disasters and the severity of all of these climate events now, companies feel like they need to do something. We’re providing support for personal hardships from these experiences, but also providing the C-Suite a readiness plan and a solution for when disaster strikes the next time so they don’t have to adjudicate this in the middle of the crisis. Support is already there.Q: How do you ensure insights found through ImpactStack are effectively communicated, and how do you use the information to refine the program?A: ImpactStack is now a part of our product, so every new company coming in is going to have access to it. For existing customers, we’ve launched it several different ways, including customer meetings and webinars.But the latter part of that question is what we’re really interested in. How do we evolve our processes and decisions based on what we’re seeing? We’re very new to that. And this will be part of our journey for the rest of time. But for the moment, we have new information and new insights unique to our market, and we will hold onto that and then expand on it. But for now, I think our outcome data offers enough to give people a sense of what they need to start having strategic conversations. We recently met with a very large Fortune 15 organization, and after meeting, they left with the information needed to justify a significant investment in the program. That’s as good a response as you can get from a company of that scale. We have our central purpose as a social enterprise and continue to think about additional layers. But there’s enough information here right now, even today, just from insights alone to get these conversations rolling.Q: ​​Do you have a quantifiable sense that we are facing more disasters today than ever before, and at the same time, socioeconomic situations where people are disproportionately affected?A: We’ve pulled together the drivers in the framework of climate change, geopolitics, and economic conditions. Imagine placing this concept on a chart: In the center, we have the conditions, while on the outer layer, we examine their individual impact and their implications for both businesses and the broader sustainable development goals, especially for those companies invested in ESG (environmental, social, and governance) principles. We also built the research and the platform to meet the reporting requirements for ESG and corporate citizenship standards. So for big companies who really care about ESG considerations, the hope is that our data is accessible. Outcomes data of this kind can be hard to procure. Some believe we have made it much easier for companies to track “S”-related outcomes.We have data on disasters and the activity around them, and also the economic conditions in the U.S., with a focus on the utilization of credit, which is being used at the highest rate ever seen. We have all these connecting points and trends that we’re seeing to bring to thought leaders and continue having these conversations.Q: Your website offers many testimonials from grant recipients. Are there any specific stories or situations you’d like to shed light on? One that was particularly impactful?A: A relevant and impactful one is from the wildfires happening in Hawaii. It’s devastating, with the loss of life and homes. We’ve heard that one company has lost an employee, and 65 employees are now without homes. That’s a lot to process. There’s a group here that’s trying to work through it with them. Here’s a quote from them:“Our peaceful community was swept by the wildfire unleashed by Hurricane Dora. Our home, a sanctuary to my family for the past three years, turned to ashes in the blink of an eye. With evacuation orders, we fled, leaving behind everything. The fire took everything from us, but not our hope. Our family of four is now staying with friends searching for a new beginning. Basic necessities like food, water, and clothing have become urgent priorities. We are resilient. With your support, we can rebuild our lives in our community.”That’s powerful.Another example that comes to mind is the war in Ukraine. For most people and companies, it was a surprise that left no time to figure out a path for relief. And when you have banking systems that have shut down, and you have people fleeing, literally fleeing for their lives, we had to figure out how to get payments securely to individuals. It was difficult to get relief there, but we figured it out. As you can imagine, not every disaster affects every company, and it doesn’t hit every company the same way. I’m proud to work with the talented team at E4E Relief. They are committed to stepping up and navigating each client situation with compassion so that we can deliver emergency financial relief to individuals around the world.Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, E4E Relief, for sponsoring this sponsor spotlight.Erin Behrens is a member of the editorial staff of From Day One.Featured photo: Volunteers make food and supply deliveries to elderly residents impacted by the devastating wildfire in last month in Lahaina, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Erin Behrens | September 15, 2023