Back in early 2020, the world took an unexpected turn. The Covid-19 pandemic deprived everyone of human interactions, even at work. Colleagues were no longer able to work together in person. Newly hired employees also didn’t have time to bond and get to know each other. Team meetings became Zoom calls, and post-work hangouts became staying at home and watching Netflix.
While employees have returned to the office, the pandemic’s effects linger. Many need help with social wellness after getting used to working from home. Their productivity and happiness depend on their social health and social relationships. So let’s go ahead and see what exactly social wellness is and why do companies need to pay more attention to it.
What is Social Wellness?
Social wellness is the state of having solid and positive relationships with different people. It can relate to any type of relationship between two or more people. From acquaintances to friends, from romantic to platonic relationships, these all add up to our social wellbeing.
The truth is that social wellness plays a huge part in a person’s overall health. An empirical study from Stanford found that strong human connections can increase the likelihood of survival by 50%. Conversely, people who have almost no social connections are even more likely to develop chronic diseases and generally have higher chances of getting sick.
Human beings tend to build and maintain relationships. Isolation may be a choice for some people, but it comes at a cost to their health. A weak immune system and mental health, high blood pressure, and heart diseases are among the possible consequences of an isolated lifestyle. Therefore, we have to take good care of our social health in every area of our lives, including the workplace.
Why is Social Wellness Important in the Workplace?
Going back to office life means spending eight hours of the day with colleagues. A study by Nazarene University found that 71% of employees do not see anyone at work as their best friend. A Cigna study shows that 62% of all U.S. workers consider themselves lonely. These statistics give room for worrying.
Employees need to build social connections to be productive at work. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs suggests that people need to have a sense of belonging. This is especially a problem for newly hired employees struggling with breaking the ice and becoming valued team members. If they fail at this, they can find themselves caught in the undertow of depression and lack of motivation at work. In the long run, it can also translate to severe mental and physical health problems.
Strong social health of employees can have the following advantages:
Increased Personal Happiness
Personal happiness is not an easy thing to find. One of the many factors adding up to it is the connections we have throughout our lives. The Harvard Study of Adult Development has discovered that social connections form a big chunk of a person’s happiness. They studied the lifetime of 724 men for 79 years, from their childhood to elderliness, and came up with these results. The critical factor here is that the impact of these relationships is not in their quantity but quality. So try to avoid unhealthy relationships and just focus on the ones that make you happy.
More Motivation and Engagement at Work
When employees feel a sense of belonging and have friendly communication with their peers, they feel more motivated and do their job with more pleasure. When there is a friendly atmosphere at work, employees are also more likely to stay with the company longer. Good office relationships become a motivating factor to come to work every day.
We’ve already mentioned some of the positive outcomes of social wellness on a person’s health, but here are some more fascinating facts about how social connections strengthen health.
- American author Shawn Achor found out through research that social connections significantly bring down stress levels.
- Mayo Clinic reports that social wellness reduces the risks of depression, as well as high blood pressure and an abnormal body mass index (BMI).
- People with strong social support have better immune systems and cardiovascular health.
- Endocrine systems are also better among people with strong social circles.
- The health risks of no social connections are similar to those of smoking, obesity, and high blood pressure.
- When a person develops close friendships, his immunoglobulin level goes up and helps fight respiratory infections and cavities.
- Other illnesses, including Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, and some types of cancer are strikingly less common among seniors who maintain healthy relationships in life.
How to Improve Social Health in the Company
People are essentially different from each other. Socializing and building connections doesn’t come easy to everyone. That is why companies need to establish a culture of networking and encourage social interactions. They have to help even the shyest and the most introverted people in the company break the ice quickly and feel comfortable and welcomed.
Management teams of companies should dedicate a portion of their annual budget toward activities promoting social connections. The benefits of a socially healthy team extend to, as we already mentioned, higher employee productivity and loyalty. To better understand what we mean, here are a couple of ways to improve social health in the company.
Organize Team-Building Activities
One of the best ways to boost company spirit and achieve social wellness goals is to organize regular team-building activities. It’s an excellent way for employees to begin trusting each other. Plan it for a weekend so that colleagues can spend the night somewhere altogether. They say you really get to know someone when you go on a trip with them. Ice-breaking games, contests, talent shows, and campfire stories are all activities that bond people and spark friendships.
The key thing to remember about team-building activities is that they shouldn’t be forced. Instead, come up with something that everyone would genuinely be interested in. It will not stimulate social wellness if the employees feel like it’s a requirement and only attend because their manager tells them to. Don’t forget that we’re still in a pandemic, so make sure to follow all Covid-19 guidelines and regulations.
Set Up a Mentorship Program
Many employees can experience stress and find it challenging to adapt during onboarding and probation. A mentorship program will help newbies kick off their professional careers in the company. Apart from that, they will also have someone who can help them make friends at work. A good mentor should be able to provide both professional and emotional support, especially during those first couple of weeks.
Go Out for a Team Lunch
Eating together is a great way to bond. Make weekly lunches with the team a habit and go out somewhere out of the office to relax and regain energy. Sharing a meal will inspire team members to talk, laugh, and get to know each other better.
Take Half-Day Offs to Volunteer
A Volunteer Time Off (VTO) allows employees to take paid time off and volunteer somewhere. Whether it is painting a wall or doing gardening work, it will help take their minds off work while they socialize with people in and outside the company. According to a study by UnitedHealthcare, 93% of the employees had a better mood, and 79% said they felt less stress after volunteering. And all of this is on top of doing a good deed for the community.
After seeing the advantages of social wellness, it’s time to build an environment of mutual trust and inclusion in the company. Caring about employees’ well-being should be on the agenda of every company. Socially active employees are happier, which makes them more productive.