Encouraging Social Wellness at Work
by Mary Scholten | November 18, 2021
What is Social Wellness?
Humans naturally crave social connection. Familial bonds, close friendships and romantic relationships all play a part in maintaining healthy social connections in our lives. However, social wellbeing expands beyond just our close relationships. Social wellbeing is a sense of belonging to a community and making a contribution to society. It involves the ability to build personal connections with others, deal with conflict and be a part of a positive social network.
Since we spend much of our time at work, how we interact with our co-workers plays a huge role in our social wellbeing. Also, as an employee, your work is a large piece of how you contribute to society. So it is important employees feel that what they are doing is meaningful. Social wellness encompasses all of this.
Why is Social Wellness Important?
After living through COVID-19 lockdowns the past few years, we are all more aware of the effects of poor social wellness (such as loneliness and isolation) on our mental and physical health. Some ways loneliness can manifest into health issues include:
- Cognitive decline
- Substance use & addiction
- Increased difficulty controlling high blood pressure & diabetes
According to one study out of Brigham Young University, the effects of poor social connection are:
- Equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day
- Equivalent to being an alcoholic
- More harmful than not exercising
- Twice as harmful as obesity
What Does Social Wellness Look Like in the Workplace?
Now that we know what poor social wellness looks like, let’s look at how healthy relationships help in the workplace. In addition to all the health benefits already discussed, a 2017 Gallup survey observed that having close work friendships boosted employee satisfaction by 50%. Satisfied employees are more productive and creative employees. According to the HR company, Rise, social connection fosters:
- Higher self-esteem
- Trust and cooperation
- Greater empathy for others
- Team performance
- Development of assertiveness skills in place of passive or aggressive ones
- Treating all people with respect
- The ability to create boundaries within relationships that encourage communication, trust, assertiveness skills & conflict management
- Being in a social space that allows for fun, laughter, and encouragement
When employees feel that they are part of a larger community, they take more responsibility for their work and are more engaged. The overall benefit of fostering a workplace community is having happier, less stressed and more productive employees.
How to Encourage Social Wellbeing at Work
When employees are recognized for their achievements or good work, it promotes positivity, ties their work to a bigger goal, and encourages employees to compliment each other’s work, promoting relationship building.
Provide Social Opportunities
Create environments where employees can socialize naturally without any financial cost to them. This can include after-work events like sports games, company picnics or holiday parties. Or it can be more work-focused like company off-site workshops.
Team Development over Personal Development
A 2015 study found employees with low levels of autonomy felt more lonely. To combat this, avoid micromanaging and allow for flexible scheduling. In addition, employers should focus on developing team problem-solving skills over individual ones. Having employees work together to find solutions instead of going at it alone or having little control over their work, leads to healthier, happier and more social workplaces.
Create Team Activities
Get creative and organize an activity where employees are put into teams. An example would be a team scavenger hunt where teams need to visit other departments and meet employees they might not see in their daily work. Or if you aren’t in a office setting, you can divide people into teams to compete in a competition such as a step challenge. Really any activity that get’s employees socializing with each other about something outside of work is the goal here.
Encourage Employees to Seek Help if Needed
If someone is struggling with their mental health, then most likely their relationships might also not be in the best place. Encouraging employees to take care of their mental health and reach out for support if need be is a good practice to keep your employees happy and healthy.