About the author: Alice Rawsthorne, hero Client Success Manager, helps support social wellbeing initiatives and general wellbeing strategies across the companies hero work with.
Here at hero, we support individuals, teams and communities to connect with each other, improve social wellbeing and reduce loneliness. A recent study by VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam study found that loneliness affects our brains – people who reported loneliness (no matter how many people were actually around them) were 64% more likely to develop dementia.
Research from the Mental Health Foundation also shows that loneliness and isolation remain the key predictors for poor psychological and physical health. Interacting with others boosts feelings of well-being and decreases feelings of depression, as well as a host of other benefits like increasing brain health.
From a company or organisational perspective it makes sense to tackle social wellbeing and loneliness in the workplace too; according to research by Gallup, people who have a best friend at work are seven times as likely to be engaged in their jobs, are better at engaging customers, produce higher quality work, and are less likely to get injured on the job.
There are plenty of simple ways to improve social wellbeing and reduce loneliness at work, we’ve put together some of our favourites:
- Walking Meetings: One great way to get people together and improve your physical health at the same time, is to have walking meetings or lunchtime walking groups. It’s cost free and accessible, plus a study from BioScience Journal (2018) showed that the positive effects of a single exposure to nature – for example, a walk, run or stint in the garden – can last for 7 hours after an individual has experienced it. That means that taking time to go for a walk with colleagues can really leave you feeling happier all day!
- Start a Club: Clubs at work can be a great way to build genuine connections and foster a sense of belonging. Whether it’s a book club, sports club, dog walking club or art club, there are plenty of options to explore.
The Reading Agency has found that book groups offer significant social networks and wellbeing benefits, as well as boosting reading. A nationwide survey of book clubs found that 94% felt being part of a reading group leads to members reading more widely, and 80% said they enjoy the books they’re reading more when they discuss them with the group.
Some respondents said they had found support and friendship within reading groups designed specially to meet their needs, such as visual impairments or mental health diagnoses. Others said being part of a group had helped them re-discover reading for pleasure, led to long-term friendships or helped them work through a challenging period in their life.
New research from The Lancet Psychiatry journal also found that out of the 1.2 million people studied, those who took part in team sports and social activities had lower rates of depression and were associated with the lowest mental health burden.
Supporting your social wellbeing has such an impact on other aspects of your health – how about starting a 5-a-side football team or setting up a table tennis tournament in the office?
- Eat Together: Food is a great way to bring people together, and beyond the power of connectivity it can have some great health benefits too. The Journal of Preventative Medicine recently published a study around the benefits of eating together and found that those who ate together reported closer relationships, greater self-esteem, and lower levels of depressive symptoms and stress.
If you don’t have a company cafe or dining area, how about finding a space close to work where colleagues can sit and meet, coinciding lunch breaks across different teams, hosting evening events or monthly breakfasts to bring people together.
- Social Events: Encouraging different teams and departments to come together can be a great way to improve social wellbeing as well as creating a more collaborative working environment. And these events don’t have to be alcohol fueled! How about an engineering & sales golf tournament, facilities & accounting cookery class, or a company wide health workshop to encourage people to try something new and boost their social wellbeing too.
- Team Challenges & Technology: For remote workers and teams which are spread out across multiple locations, looking after social wellbeing can be really tough. How about using technology to set a challenge across your whole team – whether that’s to increase the number of steps they do in a day, encourage a random act of kindness, or even just connect with a colleague they haven’t spoken to before.
Genuine social connections play such a big part in our overall wellbeing – what’s your favourite way to bring people together?