Workplace Wellness

What is Social Wellness and Why Does it Matter in the Workplace?

Written by Kate

“You’re not alone.” Many of us have or will crave these comforting words at one point, especially when life throws its hardest punches.

But how do we foster genuine connections and community in our increasingly isolated world? The workplace is ripe with opportunities, especially where employee wellness is prioritized.

Think of it this way: the average person spends about a third of their life at work. This means they spend most of their waking hours with colleagues, often more time than with family or friends outside of work. It’s no wonder, then, that some of the most enduring and meaningful relationships are forged in the workplace.

What Is Social Wellness & Why It Matters in the Workplace

Social wellness is one of the 8 dimensions of holistic well-being. It refers to the ability to form and maintain positive, supportive relationships with others. In a workplace context, we’re talking about the quality of interactions between colleagues, their view of team leadership, the support systems built within the workplace, and how that affects work performance.

Here are some key signs of social wellness in the workplace:

  • Open Communication: Employees feel comfortable sharing ideas, concerns, and feedback with colleagues and management.
  • Strong Team Cohesion: Teams work well together, members support each other’s efforts and celebrate shared successes.
  • Inclusive Environment: All employees feel valued and respected, regardless of their background or position.
  • Effective Conflict Resolution: Disagreements are addressed constructively and resolved amicably.
  • Empathy and Support: Employees show concern for each other’s well-being and offer help during challenging times.
  • Work-Life Integration: The workplace culture respects and supports employees’ lives outside work.
  • Low Turnover Rates: Employees stay with the company longer due to strong social connections.

Why Social Wellness Matters in the Workplace

Bonds created at work aren’t just about water cooler chats or lunch break laughs. They’re more than about having a colleague who drives you to the ER when you’re too ill to move or the team that rallies around you with unwavering support when you’re grappling with personal loss.

As noted by Forbes Advisor, 43% of Americans have married someone they worked with. Even more interesting, 60% of adults admit they’ve had a workplace romance.

On the business side, social bonds can also impact the bottomline. Here’s how: 

  1. Increased Employee Engagement: Gallup research shows that employees with a best friend at work are 7 times more likely to be engaged in their jobs.
  2. Enhanced Productivity: The global economic burden of mental illness is expected to reach US$$6.1 trillion in 2030, mostly due to absenteeism and presenteeism. Employees with strong social connections at work have a lower risk of work-related depression and are more productive.
  3. Improved Mental Health: According to the American Psychological Association, workplace social support can buffer against stress and burnout, leading to better overall mental health.
  4. Higher Retention Rates: A LinkedIn study revealed that 62% of professionals would not leave a company if they had a friend there.
  5. Enhanced Company Culture: Deloitte’s research shows that organizations with a strong sense of connection and belonging are twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets.
  6. Increased Innovation: Research published in Forbes and the Harvard Business Review suggests that employees with diverse social networks across the organization are more likely to generate innovative ideas.

How to Improve Social Wellness at Work

Despite the well-documented benefits of social bonds in the workplace, creating and maintaining them isn’t easy. As noted in a Microsoft report, this has become even harder with the rise of remote and hybrid work arrangements. The question for leaders now is how to recoup social capital, improve relationship-building, and improve workplace culture in this landscape.

While the connection can’t be forced, employers and management can take several steps to ensure the workplace is safe and conducive to social bonds. 

team building activities

1. Team-Building Activities

Want to break barriers and drive interesting conversations? Get people out of the office. These events create opportunities for employees to interact in a relaxed, non-work setting, building stronger bonds and improving communication. Ideas to try:

  • Regular off-site team retreats
  • monthly social events like game nights or potluck lunches
  • “Fun Friday” activities
  • End-of-week virtual hangouts, etc.

2. Mentorship Programs

Mentorship programs foster employee connections at different career stages, promoting knowledge sharing and personal growth. For effective mentorship, establish formal mentorship matching processes to ensure compatibility between mentors and mentees based on skills, career goals and personalities. Additionally, set up regular check-ins and goal-setting sessions for mentor-mentee pairs. 

3. Open Communication

Open communication is the cornerstone of any meaningful relationship. It’s the engine behind trust, transparency, and collaboration in the workplace. It empowers employees to voice their ideas, concerns, and feedback, leading to improved problem-solving and innovation. Ideas to try:

  • Implement an “open door” policy for management to make leadership more accessible and approachable.
  • Host regular town hall meetings for company-wide updates and Q&A sessions
  • Use anonymous feedback tools to encourage honest communication, especially on sensitive topics.
  • Train managers in active listening and effective feedback techniques

4. Recognize and Celebrate Achievements

It’s normal for human beings to seek validation from others. When employees feel valued and appreciated, they’re more likely to engage positively with their colleagues and contribute to a supportive workplace culture. For starters, implement an employee recognition program with peer nominations. Celebrate work anniversaries and personal milestones. If possible, share success stories in company newsletters, ‘Wall of Fame,’ or digital recognition boards. 

5. Supporting Work-Life Balance

Employees have lives and responsibilities outside of work. Recognizing that leads to reduced stress, improved well-being, and overall health. This, in turn, allows employees to bring their best selves to work and engage more positively with colleagues. To support work-life balance:

  • Offer flexible working hours or remote work options
  • Encourage employees to take their full vacation time
  • Implement ‘no email after hours’ policies
  • Provide wellness programs and resources for stress management like Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

6. Use Technology Wisely

A robust tech stack is your best asset, especially if you have remote teams. Tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Google Meet can bridge physical distances, facilitate quick, informal communication, and create a virtual space for team interactions. Creating virtual water cooler channels for casual conversations mimics the spontaneous interactions that occur in physical offices, allowing employees to build relationships beyond work-related discussions.

7. Lead by Example

Leadership sets the tone for workplace culture and social wellness. Ensure management regularly engages in team-building activities. Have leaders publicly recognize and appreciate employees’ efforts.

Final Thoughts

At the heart of every successful company is its people, and people thrive when they feel connected, supported, and part of something greater than themselves. When we invest in social wellness, we’re not just building better workplaces—we’re contributing to happier, healthier communities and individuals. And that’s an investment that pays dividends far beyond the bottom line.

Not sure where to start? Schedule a call with one of our experts today. Let us help you create a productive, healthy, and happier workplace!

Corporate Wellness Benefit Managers having a discussion while looking at an electronic tablet.

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