Social Relationships Matter

In this time of social distancing, remember that we are social beings! Having close connections and relationships impacts our well-being – our physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual health…our attitude, our mental health, the quality of our work, and our safety.

Findings indicate significant social isolation in the workplace, well before COVID-19 – and at all levels. More than half of CEOs and more than 40% of employees report being lonely at work. According to research, loneliness and weak social connections are associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day. 

Yet, health and wellness programs haven’t focused nearly as much effort on strengthening connections and social well-being as they have on reducing physical risk factors. Loneliness is associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression, and anxiety, just to name a few.

At work, loneliness reduces task performance, limits creativity, and impairs other aspects of executive function such as reasoning and decision making. The current focus on health risks and behaviors is not complete and not enough to enhance well-being. 

“Our understanding of biology, psychology, and the workplace calls for companies to make fostering social connections a strategic priority. A more connected workforce is more likely to enjoy greater fulfillment, productivity, and engagement while being more protected against illness, disability, and burnout.” (Vivek Murthy)

This should be a greater priority as more employees are working remotely. An assessment may have to wait but when possible,  

  • Evaluate the current state of connections in your workplace. 
  • Do employees feel that their colleagues genuinely value and care for them? 
  • Would they characterize their relationships with colleagues as being driven more by love or by fear?

However, we can still use this new way of being and insecurities to, 

*  Begin now to focus on fostering connections and high-quality relationships. What does this look like when working remotely and then when returning to the workplace? 

*  Model the culture within wellness and safety that strengthens social connections.

*  Nurture collaboration, sharing, and partnering – even when working remotely.

*  Provide the opportunity for more than just logging into a meeting. Ensure that there is participation that includes socially connecting within a culture of respect, generosity, valuing, listening, trust, empathy and compassion.

There are many video conferencing platforms such as Zoom to help make this happen during this incredibly difficult time!

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