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Why “social wellbeing” is more than a buzzword

Monday August 17, 2020

Social wellbeing is rising up the corporate agenda. But what does it really mean? And what value does it really deliver for employees and your company’s bottom line?

A new pillar of wellbeing

Social sits alongside physical, mental and financial wellbeing. However, it’s a recent term and there can be some confusion about what it actually means.

In the workplace, social wellbeing generally refers to the extent to which an employee feels a sense of belonging at work. From relationships with colleagues, to alignment with company values, social wellbeing is about feeling valued as a person, colleague and employee. With employees working remotely, on furlough, or doing different job roles to support the business in 2020, this has never been more important.

More than a nice to have

Social wellbeing is frequently seen as a luxury item rather than an essential part of your employee offer. But a sense of belonging is vital for ensuring high levels of engagement and in turn, greater productivity. Employees are far more likely to work at their best when they feel supported within a company that values them.

It is widely accepted that increased employee engagement boosts productivity. Social wellbeing is a key element in creating a workplace where people feel truly included and are willing to go the extra mile. Workers feel more positive towards an employer whose values accord with their own, thereby strengthening your employer brand and trust.

Steps to social wellbeing

Organisations have a duty of care to their employees, particularly in the current climate. The government is regularly reporting on the social impacts of the coronavirus crisis, underlining the importance of stability in the workplace.

So, what do HR leaders need to consider when building a social wellbeing strategy? The most important thing is to show your people that you care. Creating a culture that prioritises social interactions and inclusiveness is far more effective than implementing one-off benefits with no long-term value.

It is also important that you look at the individual needs of your people, as what is important to some employees made me less of a priority to others. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), for example, may be high on the list for some people as they want to work for a business that is actively doing good, through volunteering in the community or charitable giving. Others may prioritise working for a business that is highly sociable with regular employee activities and strong team bonds.

The role of rewards and recognition

We all like the warm glow of being thanked for a job well done. Peer-to-peer recognition has been shown to be especially effective in boosting engagement. When employees recognise each other’s efforts and receive recognition themselves, their sense of purpose and commitment to work improves.

A culture of recognition helps employees to form strong social connections at work; making them happier and healthier, which has a positive impact on their experience at work. As workforces are increasingly remote, it has never been more important to make employees feel like they belong, and are recognised by (and thus and more connected to), their colleagues and the wider business.

Implementing initiatives like a recognition programme as a one-off, however, will have a limited effect on productivity. For social wellbeing to succeed, it needs to form part of a holistic strategy which supports all aspects of employees’ physical, mental, financial and social wellbeing.

Article published in HR-Zone blog on the 17th Aug 2020.

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