A look at perhaps the most difficult of the pillars of health wellbeing to measure, social health. We explore the benefits good social health brings to individuals and organisations and offer some tips for creating social health opportunities in the workplace.
An easy visual image of the importance of the 4 pillars of health wellbeing is to imagine a hut on four stilts built over water. Each stilt representing one of the 4 pillars – physical health, mental health, financial health, and social health. If one of those stilts is damaged there is an impact on the other three, and therefore to the hut as a whole. A more up to date image may be to include a 5th stilt as many feel there should be a pillar within human health wellbeing for nutritional health.
Before the pandemic it was the pillar of social health which we found most difficult to articulate, measure, and provide persuasive arguments for even doing so in the workplace. During what we may now refer to as ‘normal times’, social health was a topic which could really go unnoticed, at least at work. A topic with a perception that it was relevant to a minority. Perhaps of more significance to the older age groups of the population. The social health levels of the majority of those of working age being considered reasonable.
As we now know, Covid changed much including depleting most people’s levels of social health. This highlighted to so many its importance and the valuable part it plays in our overall health wellbeing. Something we perhaps took for granted and may have found impossible to imagine before experiencing life during a global pandemic.
Social health – what is it?
Social health is the aspect of our wellbeing which comes from our connections with others. It includes our ability to form close, secure relationships with those in our family, workplace, or community. It encompasses nurturing our relationships and treating people with respect and kindness.
Benefits of good social health
For the Individual – can lead to positivity and social confidence, as well as boosting self-esteem. Those with a good social network around them may feel less stressed and be more productive, creative, and resilient. An individual with good social health is more likely to appreciate time on their own rather than feel alone. It is interlinked with the other pillars of our overall wellbeing. For example, poor mental health could lead to anxiety issues which may reduce someone’s social health by them not feeling up to interacting with others. If physical health and/or financial health are poor, are we going to be able enjoy or be in the right mental place for social interaction with family, colleagues or friends?
For an organisation – workplaces where employees enjoy good social health tend to be more productive, motivated and creative with a freer flow of ideas, better communication and greater respect. This tends to result in associated positive benefits for the bottom line. This pillar of wellbeing’s value is gaining momentum in the workplace after reports that poor social health has been considered as worrying as smoking daily cigarettes, obesity or having a mainly sedentary lifestyle.
Creating social health opportunities at work
Whichever side of the line you fall regarding the benefits of remote working brought on by the pandemic, most people discovered that a, if not the, major pitfall was their reduced connections with colleagues that may have previously been taken for granted.
Getting to know each other as people rather than simply employees can allow colleagues to discover they have an interest in common. This can build their social network by fostering authentic relationships at work. We can all appreciate that everyone’s social health requirements are personal and should not be forced. However, the time and effort committed by an organisation to ensuring opportunities are available will benefit those individuals who choose to engage and contribute to a positive and creative working culture.
Some suggestions for reigniting social connections at work:
- Find reasons to get together to celebrate
e.g. anniversaries of service, achieving a goal, or in certain situations commiserate if something hasn’t gone well despite the positive efforts of colleagues or teams.
- Arrange a team building activity periodically to bring people together to share skills perhaps not seen in the workplace.
There was an inspiring story of a colleague teaching others to knit a square so everyone could contribute to the making of a patchwork blanket for a seriously ill colleague.
- Include check-ins at the start of team meetings which may potentially highlight aspects of other’s wellbeing and a forum to encourage social support.
- Offer events which may appeal to many across the organisation as a good way to get people from different teams or departments mixing and developing positive relationships company wide.
Many organisations include one of our wellbeing at work courses as part of an away day event ...
Some relevant articles from our blog which may be of interest:
- Loneliness is not just a personal issue - we suggest some actions for organisations to consider
- Kindness and its role in mental health in the workplace
- Resilient skills: use our acrostic to improve your social support network
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