What is social wellbeing and why should employers embrace it

Better communication, enhanced teamwork, even improved health… Here we explore why sociable teams are effective teams.

Employees having coffee break

All of us come to work in order to, well, work. The clue, one might say, is in the name.

But this doesn’t mean that the social aspects of working are without value – in fact, social wellbeing at work has distinct benefits for employer as well as employees. A happy workforce can be more productive, better at communicating… and less prone to ill health. In fact, a Stanford University study* showed that having social ties can reduce the incidence of colds and flu, actually increasing levels of immunity against diseases.

Social wellbeing plays an important role in an overall wellbeing strategy which addresses the holistic needs of each employee. At Aviva, connecting colleagues with each other is part of the remit of our Health Heroes, a network of volunteers who organise activities as diverse as choirs, colouring clubs, running clubs, photography competitions, exercise classes, music groups, yoga and mindfulness sessions.

Is it working? The numbers would suggest it is. In our annual employee survey, 79 per cent of colleagues agreed with the statement ‘Aviva values my wellbeing’ – a rise of 10 per cent from 2016. Anecdotal evidence also supports the success of our approach. Following one recent social activity, a colleague in Perth said:

 “After this session I felt refreshed and energised and went on to give more enthused and better service to my customers” 

A 2018 highlight was celebrating National Picnic Week. We provided picnic rugs, discounted healthy picnics from our restaurants, frisbees and other fun activities to encourage teams to spend some time enjoying each other’s company. Fresh air, exercise, healthy food, being away from your desk, and – above all – the chance to connect with others were all benefits this one activity could provide. It proved so successful that some teams now have regular picnics to connect on a social level. 

The practical side: how to support social wellbeing in the workplace

Like many aspects of wellbeing, there’s no ‘off the peg’ solution to creating a successful social environment. What works well in one workplace may not in another. But there are a number of principles which you can keep uppermost in mind, then develop related activities, events and opportunities that suit the particular interests and circumstances of your employees...

Get competitive!

  • Light-hearted team challenges build team spirit, get people talking and create a real sense of achievement.

Encourage involvement with the local community

  • Company-sponsored community events are good for the reputation of the business as a whole, as well as the wellbeing of its employees – and you can tap into interests and associations that are already present. Volunteering allows people to make use of skills other than those they draw on in their everyday working lives, or gives them the chance to do things they’ve never done before. There’s a strong ‘feel good factor’ to be gained from taking on stimulating tasks together, away from the normal working environment.

Organise social events

  • You’re bound to have enthusiastic team members who will be happy to get involved in things. It’s important to include remote workers who don’t have the same ‘chat at the water cooler’ opportunities that other employees enjoy.

Reward exceptional contributions

  • Developing an initiative to recognise special contributions – whether results-based or simply going the extra mile to help colleagues – can help create the right environment.

Grab a room!

  • Providing a dedicated area for socialising will help get employees talking to each other during breaks – and taking time out from a particular task can encourage fresh thinking to resolve tricky problems once they return to their regular work area.

Eat together

  • This is a simple, effective and affordable way to improve team communication. Remember our picnic idea – eating together need not mean that anyone has to pay for a lunch out.

So yes, we all come to work for a purpose… but creating the right social environment can only enhance our ability to achieve that purpose more effectively. 

The author is Lisa Ost, People Business Partner at Aviva.

This article is provided by Aviva.

If you'd like to hear a lot more on the topic of employee wellbeing, and also specifically from Aviva, then sign up for Employee Wellbeing Congress on 20 June in London, where they'll be exhibiting.



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