Have you heard the term “social health”? It encompasses the types of interactions people need to thrive socially. Regardless of how introverted or extroverted a person is, each of us needs some form of positive social interaction with other people. At the workplace, these interactions occur through communications, actions, and behaviors toward and with coworkers and others.
Social conditions can play an enormous role in both mental and physical well-being. People need positive interactions with others and a sense of connection and belonging. It’s one of the many benefits beyond a paycheck that most of us derive from the workplace. A lack of positive social interactions can have a serious detrimental effect on overall well-being.
That said, with the coronavirus driving many positions to work from home, workplace social connections are becoming more difficult and complex. Even in working environments that are in person, the interactions are more distanced, often with masks, and thus more complicated. Employee mental health can suffer as a result of these losses in social interaction that used to be the norm throughout the day.
Ways Employers Can Foster Positive Employee Social Health
Employers can have a positive impact on employee social health. There are a lot of actions employers can take:
- Clearly define employee roles and responsibilities. This helps minimize employee conflict and foster better teamworking relationships.
- Provide appropriate tools for the job to foster good communication regardless of location.
- Encourage interactions outside of the workplace, such as sports teams or other social teams or clubs that meet for nonwork activities. (This, of course, may need to be postponed until coronavirus-related social distance restrictions are lifted.)
- Think twice before implementing workplace policies that pit employees as competitors, which can be negative for some people.
- Promote good work/life balance, which can enable employees to get the social interactions they need outside the workplace, too. (This can foster good familial relationships and friendships.)
- Promote physical health and overall well-being.
- Provide recognition for employees in a social way.
- Consider taking actions to celebrate employee milestones. This form of social interaction can improve social bonds.
- Consider creating team social gatherings to get to know one another outside of work. (Again, this may need to wait until after social distancing restrictions are lifted; in the meantime, consider videoconferencing social calls separate from work calls.)
- Consider offering benefits that help support employee well-being, like employee assistance programs (EAPs), health insurance, financial wellness assistance, flexible work hours, paid time off (PTO), etc. While these aren’t necessarily social on their own, they can support well-being and thus allow people to be their best at work—thus allowing more opportunity for those social interactions.
Naturally, employers have a lot of reasons to be mindful of employee mental and physical health. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it also can positively impact employee productivity and reduce absences. It’s truly a win-win for employer and employee.
Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.