Why social connectedness is critical for employee wellness

People are becoming increasingly isolated in today’s technology-driven world… your program needs to focus on connection.

In an era of self-driving cars and drone-delivery mail service, technology has an incredible capacity to empower us as individuals… but also to isolate us as individuals. To overcome that inclination, we depend upon the relationships we have with each other. No matter how advanced technology gets, or how intelligent machines become, one thing remains: We are human– and we all have a basic need for interaction and connection. When these needs are not met, it has a major impact on our health.

Experts from Stanford & University of Michigan recently wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review that addresses this topic, in the workplace. In particular, they reference the research done by Sarah Pressman at the University of California, Irvine, which found something shocking:

The probability of dying early is 20% higher for obese people, 30% higher for excessive drinkers, 50% higher for smokers… but an incredible 70% higher for people with poor social relationships.

So, when looking to address and improve employee health and reduce healthcare utilization rates, a social solution might be just as (if not more!) impactful, in the long term, relative to solutions focused on physical activity interventions, smoking cessation programs, health risk assessments, and biometric screenings. Or, if those programs are already in place, a social component may be critical to ensuring lasting success.

“The need to connect socially with others is as basic as our need for food, water, and shelter.”
—Matthew Lieberman, PhD, UCLA professor, Author

To try and improve a person’s health without assessing the quality of their relationships and interactions is like trying to improve a person’s diet without knowing the kinds of foods he/she eats on a regular basis. It’s foundational. Humans are social beings — we need social connectedness to thrive, to be happy, and to be healthy.

So, the next time you set out to make a healthy lifestyle change, take a look around. Who are the people in your life that will support your decision? Who are those who won’t? And how will this impact your ability to be successful? If you are in charge of your company’s wellness program, how are you setting your employees up for success? How will you keep your employees connected to motivate and encourage one another?

As technology has an increasingly significant place in our lives, the importance of maintaining social connections becomes more important than ever.

Want to learn more about how to improve the health and happiness of your organization by driving social connectedness? My company, Spire Labs, has spent years helping large and small companies to solve this tricky problem, and I’d love to show you how we do it. You can just send me a tweet at @ambermarie_cox, or email me at amber@spire.me.

Thanks for reading!