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Companies big and small are focusing on employee health more and more. Company culture often focuses on productivity, which influences the bottom line. However, social health is becoming the center focus on shifting workplace environments. With this new focus, employees and profits alike can thrive.

Social health is a necessity for employees. The workplace must foster a positive environment where staff members feel they have support, connections, growth, and efficient means of completing their work. Every day, health, in any form, grows in importance. Having a foundation that focuses on all levels of employee health will bring about the most effective changes.

What Is Employee Social Health?

Humans are social beings, meant to interact with other people on different levels, whether it’s romantic, platonic, familial, or as coworkers. To use human nature for positive change means creating an environment of social health for employees.

It’s first important to break down the elements of it. What is social health? How does it help employees? How does it differ from physical and mental health?

To begin, take the last question. Social health helps balance both mental and physical health. It is the forming of meaningful connections and relationships with other people. When you have solid social health, your physical and mental states will also improve. According to a study from PLOS medicine, strong social connections can increase your chances of a longer lifespan by 50%. This kind of drastic improvement affects everyone.

Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, you need social health to thrive in your daily life. In the workplace, it’s no different. Forming meaningful relationships where you work is critical. Fostering that environment for your employees is also a necessity. People perform better when they have a support system — a group of people or a setting that keeps them going and encourages them to be the best they can be. Positivity and constructive feedback can be life-changing.

What Does Employee Social Health Look Like?

Social health manifests in many different ways and will change for each employee. It’s the actions, behaviors, and connections between coworkers. It’s also the way people compose themselves in interpersonal settings.

For instance, if a worker is passive and doesn’t speak up for themselves or their ideas, they may lack positive social health. Another example is an imbalance of work, social, and personal time. At work, employees need a balance of focusing on their responsibilities as well as collaborating and engaging with their coworkers — whether it’s on a break or for tasks.

Proper social health in the workplace involves trust, a balance of independence and codependence, communication, problem-solving, being yourself, and fostering an environment of respect. These aspects are a foundation for respect and prosperity.

In order to act on these factors, employees can balance their time wisely, speak their minds without fear of retaliation, engage with their coworkers, and focus on maintaining the best physical and mental health. With a dedication to these actions, everyone in the workplace will operate well and in a healthy manner. As an employer, there are certain ways that you can encourage these behaviors and actions, both in and out of the office.

How to Foster Employee Social Health

employees doing a group high-five on the office table

Creating an optimal environment for employee social health may seem like a daunting task. However, you’ll find that these paths build upon existing activities, dynamics, and policies in the workplace. Others introduce new ideas that are cost-effective.

1. Start Employee Collaborations

Since humans are social creatures, any form of connection at work helps with social health. As an employer, you can facilitate new events and activities that bring staff members closer together. People like to collaborate on projects, host work-related events, and socialize. It’s human nature to build connections — and the workplace should be no different.

Activities take many different forms at work. In the office, you can start more teamwork-based projects. Keep in mind that collaboration doesn’t mean employees work on the same thing at once. It could mean that each staff member handles various stages of the project. A marketing campaign, for instance, consists of social media posts, emails, and newsletters, interpreting data and analytics, and responding to customer feedback. The entire team should communicate and work together through each step.

Other ways to bring employees together include work events or parties and team outings. However, a positive workplace environment can encourage connections outside of the office, too. If multiple employees have similar interests, they can commit to it together. For example, exercising and fitness groups often form after employees build connections at work.

With a healthy environment that encourages socializing and connecting, employees form strong bonds with each other. Ultimately, they connect better at work, creating a support system for everyone.

2. Encourage Breaks

Some people think of breaks as a thing of the past — that working straight through their shift, and even eating lunch at their desk, is the best way to maintain productivity. For some, this idea will be true. However, there is a positive correlation between productivity, mental health, and taking breaks. Skipping these breaks can be detrimental to an employee’s quality of work as well as their state of mind.

One way to improve social health in the workplace is to encourage breaks. Often, breaks are a way for people to unwind for 15-30 minutes. Stepping away from work every few hours or so can recharge employees and get them ready to go with a fresh pair of eyes.

Additionally, breaks give people a chance to connect with their coworkers. They can catch up on their personal lives and share stories. They can make plans for connecting outside of work, continuing that strong bond.

You can bring breaks a step further with a dedicated break room. In this area, you can provide beverages and food — coffee is often a popular choice — to keep employees fueled. Remember that you don’t have to break the bank to treat your employees. You can opt for things like vending machines or occasional catering.

3. Meet Employee Needs

No matter what industry your company is part of, you’ll want to meet your employees’ needs. The job-hunting process is long and often tiring. When individuals find a position that they’re a fit for, they want to know they made the right decision. Employers can ease this transition by listening to what staff members need and accomodating them as efficiently as possible.

All companies need the right supplies and devices. The basics include tech devices and software. Computers, tablets, phones, storage, and file-sharing platforms are some of the techs most companies require. If employees don’t have these, they may not be able to properly complete their work.

Additionally, workers require social support. Unfortunately, over half of all U.S. workers are unhappy in their job positions. These feelings can stem from a lack of growth potential, preparedness, support, and training. Social health ultimately suffers, too. When workers are unhappy, they’re less likely to speak up or connect well with their colleagues. Their quality of work decreases and that employee may try to find a new job.

Communication both ways about various needs offer a bridge to a more socially healthy environment. Staff members will be proud of their work and connect better with coworkers when they have the support they need on all levels.

4. Volunteer

Employees drinking refreshments in the office

Many companies include a cause of some sort in their business models. Whether it’s a focus on the environment, social justice, or community service, creating a space to volunteer is essential. For the company, outreach programs and connections show a dedication to giving back. It lets consumers and clients know that your business values the community that supports it. This connection is a practice of social health of its own.

For employees, volunteering creates a way to bond with acquaintances, turning those dynamics into friendships. Often, people who volunteer want to show their dedication to a beneficial cause. Take the environment, for example. If you’re someone who invests time into recycling and reducing your carbon footprint, then you’ll be likely to volunteer at work.

People with common interests bond easily. They find passions through work that they share with other people, which boosts social health. Giving back through volunteering also creates a strong sense of responsibility and dedication.

Ultimately, volunteering builds social health on every level. Companies build trust with consumers and employees bond with each other and their cause. As a bonus, employees form company loyalty when they commit to their job on both a workplace and volunteering level.

5. Change Policies

Company culture consists of the patterns, behaviors, policies, and actions that influence the social aspects of the workplace. It changes how employees connect and how their social health fares at work. With a strong company culture, employees create a support system for each other. Specifically, policies have a significant bearing on workplace performance and behavior.

Your company’s policies should center on, or include sections about, people first and foremost. A “people first” approach shows a dedication to your employees that they’ll reciprocate. For instance, since working from home is becoming more popular, you can include new policies about that kind of work. Some people prefer virtual work due to improved productivity or family commitments.

Remember that virtual engagement comes with different requirements that in-office work. Ultimately, adjusting for new policies means fresh and new social dynamics.

You can also work on policies regarding mental health. If you provide resources like support groups or therapy, you bridge a social gap. When people have the resources they need to thrive, they can work on interpersonal relationships and build those connections, all with your company’s help.

If you’d like to take a progressive step forward, you could change your policies concerning schedules. For example, you can make sure employees have one or two covered breaks per day that don’t take away from their work shift hours.

6. Communicate

Communication is one of the most important aspects of any workplace. It is a two-way street for employers and employees to give and receive feedback. If something isn’t working for an employee, you’ll want to proactively reach out before it turns into a bigger problem. Starting these conversations is the first step into a more socially aware and healthy environment.

There are many different ways to communicate in the workplace. You can send out monthly or quarterly surveys that ask for employee feedback. How do they evaluate their own performance? How do they feel their supervisors have helped them? What do they need to continue doing their best work? You can turn these surveys into meetings, too. Open the dialogue to broad and specific points to get the full range of feedback.

You’ll often find that social health, morale, and quality of work operate together. When one fails, so do the others. Frequent communication is the best way to keep all employees happy, healthy, and efficient. With more open and honest conversations, employees trust their supervisors more as well as their peers.

Social health in the workplace is then a priority. It keeps the gears moving. Healthy communication leads to socially healthy employees and a healthy company in turn.

The Importance of Employee Social Health

team members collaborating on a project

Social health is a necessity for human beings. It’s the core of the interpersonal relationships that keep you going in your work and personal lives. Think of it as an ongoing project, just like your physical and mental health. It’s something that you must maintain every day.

The workplace can help you and your employees with social health. Through collaborations and breaks, it helps build dedication and loyalty within colleagues — both to each other and to the company. When the company meets employee needs, they can perform better and improve their happiness at work. Volunteering strengthens commitments and social health across the board.

Finally, policies and communication allow the business to take direct action in order to encourage social health.

With social health acting as a guide for physical and mental health, the workplace can foster all three. Employees have the ability to connect, thrive, and feel better every day.

The First Steps

No matter what stage of workplace social health you’re at, there’s always room for improvement. Employees are the backbone of businesses around the world. Creating the healthiest atmosphere for them requires patience and communication. With the right commitment, social health becomes a company priority that everyone benefits from.

Written By
April Miller writes about technology, careers, and lifestyle topics. She is an avid dog-lover and a staff writer for ReHack.com

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