rebaLINK: social wellbeing strategies

Each month we’ll be taking a closer look at a topic raised on rebaLINK – REBA’s online member-only networking and due diligence platform – to offer our own expertise and insight. This month we're looking at social wellbeing.

Question: It's easy to partner with a provider to plug the gaps on physical, mental and financial wellbeing, but social seems trickier. What initiatives are other organisations running to support social wellbeing among employees?

rebaLINK: social wellbeing strategies

Social wellbeing is harder to define than other aspects of wellbeing, and often, it will reflect the values and culture of the organisation in question.

However, generally speaking, social wellbeing is all about connections. Personal connections among employees and their managers, and wider connections within the communities in which the employer operates.

The need for social connection

Social wellbeing infiltrates all aspects of employee wellbeing. Perhaps the most obvious link relates to mental health. It is becoming increasingly apparent that, despite having numerous ways of communicating with each other, employees are becoming more lonely and isolated at work. Deloitte’s Mental health and employers (2020) research found that 30% of employees feel that technology, such as social media, was causing them to feel lonely as it had replaced face‑to‑face contact, while 67% said their mental health worsened as a result of feeling lonely.

The Mental Health at Work 2019 Report from Business in the Community and Mercer, also highlighted the importance cultivating inclusive cultures and working environments.

“The workplace has the potential to provide important social connections and enhance mental wellbeing. Employers owe a duty of care to employees; good workplaces should foster supportive and safe environments,” states the report.

The current state of social wellbeing

Despite growing awareness of the importance of social wellbeing, Aon’s UK Benefits & Trends  Survey 2020 revealed that there had been a slight decline in the number of organisations which said they had a defined social wellbeing strategy in place – down to 28% since 2017. However, other pillars of wellbeing had seen substantial growth. Financial wellbeing strategies had increased from 21% in 2017 to 51% in 2020, and emotional wellbeing strategies had risen from 41% in 2017 to 68% in 2020.

The report notes that there may be good reason for the fall in social wellbeing strategies: “This is perhaps a sign of how varied the definition of some wellbeing strategies can be, or how effectively they are communicated, rather than a decline in interest in this important strand of any wellbeing programme.”

A further reason could relate to the broadness of social wellbeing. This pillar of wellbeing can be spread across different departments, including: diversity & inclusion, corporate social responsibility, reward, HR, facilities and employee engagement teams.

Despite this fall and the gap in distinct strategies compared with other areas of wellbeing, social wellbeing is key to delivering a culture that promotes internal connections, innovation and productivity. And, more often than not, employers are already doing things to encourage and support social wellbeing.

Social wellbeing benefits and initiatives

Here are a few of our favourite ideas to improve the social wellbeing in your organisation – many of which you may already have in place.

  • Employee networks – encouraging people to socialise and talk about specific issues that relate to their lives. They can cover all sorts of topics, from new parents and working carers to LGBT+ and women’s networks.
  • Employee clubs – from workplace choirs to football and netball teams.
  • Subsidised sports – to encourage both physical activity and the social aspect that comes from participating in a group activity.
  • Lunch & learn sessions – combining the two brings double the benefit.
  • Talks and workshops about social topics – encouraging participation and bringing people together.
  • Mentoring – encourages connections in different parts of the business and across different grades.
  • Regular social events – from company picnics to the Christmas party.
  • Reward and recognition schemes – by recognising individuals and teams employers can boost a sense of cohesion and belonging.
  • Social areas/spaces – create an inviting break-out area to encourage more social interaction.
  • Community outreach projects – encouraging staff to help others within their community.
  • Volunteering leave for registered charities – many organisations offer one/two or even three days a year to allow staff to volunteer at a charity of their choice.
  • Matched charitable giving – giving employees the opportunity to raise money for charity by matching their fundraising.
  • Payroll giving – the ability to donate to charity via the payroll, which is more tax-efficient.

The author is Dawn Lewis, content editor at REBA.

REBA Professional Members can access rebaLINK via our website. It is a confidential forum for industry peers to ask questions about policies, suppliers and wider reward practices both for the UK and internationally. It provides access to a collective body of industry professionals and their expert knowledge. 

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