“Human beings are social creatures. We are social not just in the trivial sense that we like company, and not just in the obvious sense that we each depend on others. We are social in a more elemental way: simply to exist as a normal human being requires interaction with other people.” - Atul Gawande, bestselling author, surgeon, and public health researcher
We are social by nature. We not only crave interactions, but we require them. That’s what makes social wellbeing an integral element of our overall wellbeing. If we don’t have strong relationships in our lives, our ability to thrive is limited.
But unfortunately we often let it drop down on our to-do list. We fail to leave adequate time to work on developing and maintaining these social ties.
Healthy relationships can impact us mentally and physically. They can help us live longer, manage stress, and become healthier. There is plenty of research discussing the connection between social wellbeing and health. Here are a few examples:
- University of Minnesota reviewed 148 studies to find that those with strong relationships are 50% less likely to die prematurely. Additionally, individuals with low social support were linked to health consequences including depression, decreased immune function, and higher blood pressure.
- Stanford references studies related to short-term health benefits like a reduced incidence of colds as well as better survival rates for diseases when individuals have strong social support.
- Gallup even found a tie between healthy social relationships and decreased injury healing time. They also report that those who spend at least six hours socializing a day, experience a reduction in stress and worry, and consequently an increase in wellbeing. This time socializing doesn’t mean your employees aren’t working and it isn’t limited to the workday. Gallup clarifies that the six hours of social time could include time at work, home, on the phone, talking to friends, sending emails, and other forms of communication.
The Importance Of Friends At Work
We spend a significant amount of time at work each week, so it shouldn’t be surprising that developing friendships in the workplace can have a big influence on our wellbeing – and our engagement level. You know how employee engagement can impact your bottom line – reduced turnover, improved productivity, and fewer safety-related incidents, among other things. But are you taking action to help foster relationships in your workplace? It should be part of your workplace wellbeing efforts!
“Camaraderie is more than just having fun. It is also about creating a common sense of purpose and the mentality that we are in it together.” – Christine Riordan, Harvard Business Review
How can you support social wellbeing in your organization?
- Company-sponsored activities and events to provide opportunities for employees to socialize.
- Highlight events in the community where your organization is a sponsor and encourage employees to attend.
- Take a few minutes before meetings, especially on Monday mornings, to allow employees to catch up on each other’s personal lives.
- Encourage, but not force, employees to get together outside of work to get to know each other better.
- Provide opportunities and encourage employees to volunteer together.
The Value Of Connecting Face-To-Face
Forbes contributor Margie Warrell points out that “digital communication can never replace in person, face-to-face, contact in building relationships – personal and professional.” She references a Harvard Business Review study which found that team performance increased 50% when the team members socialized more and kept email for operational issues only.
Technology and social media can be incredible resources for individuals and organizations. They provide ways to connect with people, customers, and the public as a whole. But without real, face-to-face interactions, we are truly missing out. Numerous studies have shown that even though today people are more “connected” than ever with the help of technology, individuals report feeling lonelier than ever before.
Barbara L. Fredrickson, professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina, wrote an article in the New York Times discussing how habits mold the structure of our brain and strengthen our proclivity for those habits. Social connection is no exception. Our habits of social connection do leave a physical imprint on us. As Fredrickson stated: “If you don’t regularly exercise your ability to connect face-to-face, you’ll eventually find yourself lacking some of the basic biological capacity to do so.”
As you look to foster social wellbeing in your workplace, don’t forget about opportunities for people to connect “the old fashioned way.” Encourage your employees to put technology aside and take time to interact with each other.
If you truly want to help your employees be healthier, you cannot overlook social wellbeing. Making an effort to foster healthy relationships in your workplace can make a significant impact on individuals and your organization as a whole.