The Importance of Social Wellbeing in the Workplace

Published: 3 years ago, Last Updated: 4 months ago
Daniel Brown
Writer: Daniel Brown
Jackson Rhodes
Reviewer: Jackson Rhodes
Listen minutes

Back in early 2020, the world took an unexpected turn. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic created an involuntary hiatus in human interaction, cutting off connections at the heart of our daily lives, even at work. Colleagues, who often cross the boundaries of professional acquaintance into friendship, were no longer able to work together in person. Newly hired employees also didn’t have time to create those bonds that nurture empathy and trust. Team meetings became Zoom calls, and post-work interaction was reduced to virtual hangouts while 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 companies need to pay more attention to it.

What is Social Wellness?

Social wellness is the state of cultivating and maintaining solid and positive relationships with your family, friends, and colleagues. It applies to all types of relationships, regardless of the number of people involved. From mere acquaintances to deep friendships, from romantic to platonic relationships – each one contributes to our overall social well-being.

A silhouette of hands making a heart shape.

The truth is that social wellness plays a huge role in a person’s overall health. An empirical study from Stanford uncovered that strong human connections could 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.

Given our inherent need for interaction, human beings continually seek to build and maintain relationships. While isolation may be a choice for some, it comes with a high 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, yet a sense of friendship can promote productivity. A Cigna study shows that 62% of all U.S. workers consider themselves lonely. These statistics give room for worrying.

A team of office workers displaying social wellness at a meeting.

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. Many factors contribute to it, chief among them the connections we forge throughout our lives – with family, friends, and colleagues.  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 in quality. So try to avoid unhealthy relationships and just focus on the ones that make you happy.

More Social Motivation and Engagement at Work

When employees feel a sense of belonging and engage in friendly communication with their peers, they are more motivated and find greater satisfaction in their tasks. This environment fosters empathy, cementing the office’s social health and bringing immense benefits to the company. When there is a friendly atmosphere at work, employees are more likely to stay with the company longer. Good office relationships become a motivating factor in coming to work every day, fostering positive work habits and providing growth opportunities.

Stronger Health 

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.
  • Coworkers participating in a team building exercise helps improve social skills as well as leadership skills, allowing employees to communicate and collaborate more effectively.

People are essentially different from each other. Socializing and building connections don’t come easy to everyone. That is why companies need to establish a culture of networking and encourage social interaction. They have to help even the shyest and the most introverted people in the company break the ice quickly and feel comfortable and welcomed. By leveraging opportunities for interaction, whether in-person or via social media, companies can facilitate these connections.

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 interaction. They have to help even the shyest and the most introverted people in the company break the ice quickly and feel comfortable and welcomed. 

Team high fiving each other after successful teamwork

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. Establishing these habits can help foster a supportive work environment. Ice-breaking games, contests, talent shows, and campfire stories are all activities that bond people and spark friendships.

The key thing to remember about teamwork 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 business 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. This regular bonding opportunity can also help individuals develop better social skills over shared experiences.

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.

Final Thoughts

After understanding the benefits 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 with strong support systems in the workplace are happier, healthier, and more productive.

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