Employee Social Wellness

Tanner Pierce, PHR
You know from your own experience that when you feel positively connected to those around you, you are happier and have more to contribute. As an HR department, how are you supporting your employees’ social wellness—and how does it impact your company if you are not? Read on to learn how to create a culture that supports social wellness.

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What Is Employee Social Wellness?

Employee social wellness is the connection employees have to their peers and leaders—their overall sense of belonging with their co-workers and the organization. It is a key indicator of an employee’s ability to be productive and satisfied at work.

Why Is Social Wellness Important?

Here are a few of the great benefits of social wellness.

  • Employee engagement. How well employees get along with their co-workers can be critical to retention. If an employee doesn’t feel comfortable at work, they are less likely to stay. While much of that relationship comes with time, it is also impacted by the culture. If your culture welcomes friendship and relationship-building, employees are likely to be more engaged. This can be encouraged through company lunches or team-bonding experiences. Activities that promote employee engagement provide opportunities to develop social wellness.
  • Mental health. Many Americans struggle with mental health, and work can be a stressful environment.  Making employees’ social wellness a priority also supports their mental health.
  • Social support. It is human nature to need social support, whether it comes from family, friends, or co-workers. Social support can be found in three different ways: emotional, instrumental, and informational.
    • We associate sympathy or empathy with emotional support. During times of stress or sorrow, offering emotional support is one way work connections transcend the work environment and contribute to an employee’s overall wellness.
    • Instrumental support refers to help offered through tangible means, such as money or other resources. This could be a small gesture from a co-worker, like taking a casserole to the house, or a larger one from the organization, such as organizing the donation of sick leave.
    • Providing information or knowledge to support a person (such as reminding them about your Employee Assistance Program) is informational support.

Factors That Impact Employee Social Wellness

The social wellness of an employee is impacted by many factors in the workplace. Some might  happen every day, while others happen less frequently but have just as much impact.

Stress

Workplace stress is one of the leading causes of stress among American adults. Stress is a daily occurrence in the workplace for most people; it is the nature of a job. How stress is managed is important. HR can provide resources and support to help alleviate that stress in the workplace.

Relationships

As mentioned previously, it is human nature to want to connect with other humans, and it’s important for employees to have opportunities to bond and connect with colleagues. Having a culture that promotes relationship building will make people more comfortable and increase employee social wellness.

Proximity

Where employees work—whether in the office or remotely—has a huge impact on the employee’s social wellness. Continued proximity encourages contact and more opportunities to develop relationships, so be aware that if part or all of your workforce works remotely, you may need to create virtual opportunities to connect. Some examples of how to combat this is to plan virtual hangouts with employees, or plan off-site meetings that allow employees to interact with each other face-to-face.

How Do I Improve Social Wellbeing in the Workplace?

Now, discussing employee’s social well-being and actually doing something about it is an important distinction. You need to take action if you truly want to improve your employee’s social well-being.

Step 1: Understand your employee’s needs

Every organization’s needs (and every person’s) are different. Ask employees how they are feeling and how your organization can help support them. This is often done through employee surveys.

Step 2: Set Goals

After gathering data or feedback from employees, set social wellbeing goals as an organization. How do you want to support social wellness?  What do you need to do to achieve that? How will you measure it? Come up with a plan, a timeline, and a budget.

Step 3: Implement change

Change is not often easy, but implement the changes that will help you achieve your goals.

Step 4: Review

After making these changes, set time aside to review the changes after they have been put in place. What is working well and what is not?  Gather feedback and make more changes if needed.

Examples of Employee Social Wellness Programs

Ultimately, as a company it falls on you to implement social wellness programs.  Without help from the company, employees will likely struggle with social wellness.

1. Social Wellness Challenges

One of the best ways to promote social wellness is to have social wellness challenges as a company. These can happen on a weekly, monthly, or even quarterly basis. They can be small things, such as a competition around reaching a certain number of steps each day. Activities like this encourage employee health while giving employees something to do together.

2. Offer Gym Memberships

Exercise has a huge impact on an employee’s mental and physical health. Offering gym memberships to your employees encourages them to take the necessary time to take care of themselves. If your employees all go to the same gym, chances are it is also an opportunity to develop common interests and support each other.

3. Company Walks/Activities

Setting time in the workday to walk together as a team or department lowers stress in addition to encouraging team bonding.

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Questions You’ve Asked Us About Employee Social Wellness

How do employees who have poor social wellness impact an organization?
Employees with poor social wellness can create a culture that is toxic or negative—a place where people don’t want to be. In addition, poor social wellness contributes to stress, which increases the likelihood of decreased physical wellness, mental health, and productivity.
Who is responsible for an employee's social wellness?
Employers and employees are both responsible for an employee’s social wellness. Employers are there, usually in the form of the HR department, to provide support and offer ways to promote social wellness, but ultimately it won’t change an employee’s social well-being if they don’t have a desire to change or to try the different ways offered.
Tanner Pierce, PHR

Tanner has over 4 years of HR professional experience in various fields of HR. He has experience in hiring, recruiting, employment law, unemployment, onboarding, outboarding, and training to name a few. Most of his experience comes from working in the Professional Employer and Staffing Industries. He has a passion for putting people in the best position to succeed and really tries to understand the different backgrounds people come from.

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