What is social wellbeing in the workplace?

A quick summary:

  • What is social wellbeing at work?
  • Heka's social wellbeing definition
  • 4 reasons why you should care about social wellbeing
  • Our final thoughts on the subject

Employee wellbeing cannot exist in the workplace without considering the pillars that fall within it; social wellbeing, emotional wellbeing, physical wellbeing and financial wellbeing. The question is, what is social wellbeing in the workplace, and why should you care?

Social wellbeing isn’t a new phenomenon. In fact, it has been a huge factor in successful businesses for quite some time. That’s because everything from company culture to relationships and diversity and inclusion falls under the social wellbeing umbrella.

In a way, it encapsulates some of the most important attributes of a strong workplace. Here, we’re diving head-first into the topic to explore what it means, and essentially, why it matters.

A female employee holding a pen communicating with another employee
What is social wellbeing?

What is social wellbeing at work?

According to Betterup.com, social wellbeing refers to the “sharing, developing, and sustaining of meaningful relationships with others”. It’s about creating an environment where people feel authentic and have a sense of belonging amongst others.

The team at Betterup.com do a great job of introducing us to the very nature of social wellbeing, which is ‘togetherness’ and ‘relationships’.

Similar read: What is a duvet day?

Heka’s social wellbeing definition

Our own definition of social wellbeing doesn't really differ from that of Betterup.com. However, we would add that it’s about creating openness, honesty and trust in the workplace. Being able to express ideas and concerns, and do so freely. 

In a workplace with these attributes, employees do not feel stressed, or under pressure from leadership; because these organisations understand the importance of relationships – and the damage that can be done if they aren’t prioritised.

What's more, the lack of these qualities results in poor productivity, performance and can leave employees feeling isolated or lonely. These are very real problems that many businesses face today.

Great organisations cannot succeed at the hands of one person, nor can great ideas be executed alone –  social wellbeing is what brings people together.

It’s also about recognising colleagues as more than an acquaintance with a certain set of skills and tasks to undertake. It’s about seeing colleagues as friends, who we care about and want to see reach their full potential. 

Three female employees working in an industrial style office
4 reasons why social wellbeing at work matters

Why should I care about social wellbeing in the workplace?

Now, let’s dive into some of the key reasons you should care about social wellbeing in the workplace. Spoiler alert, social days can be a great idea for your team!

It is crucial in a remote-first working world

Believe it or not, a lot has changed since the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve seen employee wellbeing move closer to the top of the agenda for companies, and a boom in remote and hybrid work. 

As employees swapped their desks for home offices, social wellbeing has become even more important. Now, organisations are faced with communication and collaboration issues. Employees aren’t able to build the same kind of relationships with both managers and colleagues in a remote environment — or at least, that’s what they think! 

The truth is, leaders need to get creative with how they approach collaboration and communications. Technology has brought about hundreds of affordable apps to make communication must easier. Think Slack, Google Docs, Zoom, Canva and many more.

Ultimately, employers must do more to improve the social wellbeing of their team by bringing people together virtually. Here at Heka, the entire team gets involved in a virtual game fortnightly on a Wednesday. Whether it’s team-based games or quizzes, it gives the team the opportunity to collaborate on something besides work tasks.

Similar read: How to encourage work-life balance for employees

Social wellbeing can hinder emotional wellbeing

It isn’t just social wellbeing that can take a hit. When employees sense a lack of belonging or care from an organisation, their emotional wellbeing can be impacted. Think about it; if we don’t experience a good level of togetherness and belonging, we become isolated, which can deteriorate further to affect mental health, increase stress and cause anxiety or depression – it really can spiral off.

This should be taken into consideration because once the emotional wellbeing of your team drops, things like absenteeism and presenteeism can increase. When we think about social wellbeing, we must address issues of discrimination and bullying in the workplace and conflicts among colleagues — these things demonstrate that poor social wellbeing can hinder emotional wellbeing.

Two employees collaborating on HR paperwork in an office environment and smiling at each other
Creating favourable workplace cultures for new talent

It creates a favourable culture for new hires

Social wellbeing at work is important as it is a driving force for diversity and inclusion. And if there’s one thing we know about forward-thinking workplaces, it’s that they are welcoming of all people, from different backgrounds. 

If you want to strengthen your hiring efforts and create a workplace you can be proud of, it’s important to drive social wellbeing. That’s because by creating a more social workforce, you are boosting diversity and inclusion.

People are able to get to know others on many more occasions than just work tasks and projects. In fact, they are able to learn about the background and cultures of their coworkers through social gatherings, communication tools and more.

A diverse and inclusive workplace is a much more attractive work environment, and that’s why it makes our list of reasons to take social wellbeing at work seriously.

Similar read: Signs of unhappy employees at work

Social wellbeing increases employee engagement

Like emotional wellbeing, social wellbeing also increases employee engagement. That’s because people are much more involved in the workplace around them. They better understand the processes and systems in place, the work carried out by colleagues and they get to know each other on a more personal level. 

These are all characteristics that scream better workplace engagement. What’s more, a highly engaged workforce can actually be more profitable. According to one report, highly engaged workforces are 21% more profitable

They’re also happier in the workplace, and when we are happier, we’re able to perform at our best. To cut a long story short, workplace engagement is essential and responsible for great success within a workforce. 

If you want to create a more engaged workforce, one that shows fewer signs of absenteeism, presenteeism and sticks around longer, consider better social wellbeing at work. 

Two female employees looking at a laptop screen at work and smiling
Our conclusion on social wellbeing at work

Our final thoughts on social wellbeing at work

It’s very evident that social wellbeing must occur in the workplace. Although it isn’t a word we often come across, as applied to a working environment, it’s an umbrella term for many great attributes. 

Hopefully, by now, you realise that social wellbeing at work does mean better health and wellbeing for your people. As we often recommend, it’s a good idea to benchmark your current workplace culture against some of the points mentioned above. 

For instance, are you leveraging technology for better communication and collaboration? Are you creating opportunities for employees to get to know each other on a personal level? 

In a remote-first working world, social wellbeing cannot be ignored or neglected. It’s time for you to ramp up your efforts to create a sociable, highly communicative and collaborative workforce.

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