How social wellbeing can help boost employee resilience

The world of work is ever-changing, and the COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense upheaval and catalysed new ways of working. We take a look at why resilience is so important to businesses - and how companies can help build resilient workforces.

It is increasingly understood that employee wellbeing is crucial for businesses – a healthy and happier workforce is known to be more productive. But there’s another dimension that has not been at the forefront – employee resilience.

Boosting employee resilience through social wellbeing

Never has a year shone a light on this as 2020 has done. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown uncertainty and difficulty at businesses. Employers are more aware of the fragility of employees’ health and financial wellbeing and the need for resilience – the ability of people to be able to weather storms, feel secure and motivated in their jobs, and rapidly adapt to change.

Social wellbeing helps ‘amplify all other dimensions of wellbeing’, according to Aon’s The Rising Resilient report. But, social wellbeing – the feeling of togetherness and inclusion – is at high risk of being lost from the social restrictions enforced due to Covid-19.

So, how exactly can social wellbeing help boost resilience?

Feeling connected

Loneliness can be a cause of health conditions, some serious, such as cardiovascular disease. Studies have shown that loneliness can increase the risk of premature death by around 30%.

Charity Campaign to End Loneliness also states that it can have an impact on blood pressure, reduced immune functioning and poorer sleep.
Before the pandemic, loneliness was already prevalent within the workplace. In the 2020 Aon Loneliness guide, 5% of adults in England said they felt lonely ‘always’ or ‘often’. But with the increased isolation of working from home due to Covid-19, the risk of loneliness in the workplace has surely multiplied.

Ensuring employees still feel connected to colleagues and managers can make them more able to cope with change and pressure.

Aon’s Rising Resilient report found that those with a high strength of social connections were 45% more likely to be resilient, whereas those with low ones had only a 14% chance of resilience.

The World Health Organisation in its Health 2020 policy framework considered that engaging the whole of society in creating supportive environments could help ‘strengthen the resilience of communities to withstand threats to their health, security and wellbeing’.

In this pandemic era, social connections might be more difficult, but they can still be developed through innovative communication networks such as Donut, which randomly pairs coworkers and reminds them to meet for a quick coffee or a virtual chat. There’s also Disco, which fosters team appreciation virtually through Microsoft Teams.

At Spanish brewing company Mahou San Miguel, supporting employees’ social wellbeing does not just centre around the office.

‘We enable people to find what drives them,’ says Antonio Pajuelo, director of corporate talent at the company, in Aon’s Rising Resilient report.

‘But we also want to consider lives outside of work too, and are increasingly looking at how we can help people take part in sports, spend time with their families, or educate themselves outside of work.’

Feeling included

Another way of promoting social wellbeing within the workplace is to ensure inclusion and diversity within the company.

Many companies have reflected on the learnings from the Black Lives Matter movement, how systemic issues can go undetected, and how they can ensure greater inclusion within their workplace.

The impact of racism and exclusion can create division and mental trauma among employees. Whereas, prioritising diversity initiatives and an understanding of unconscious bias can help bridge gaps.

Creating internal employee networks focusing on key issues such as Race, Culture, Gender, LGBTQ+ etc. can also help unify employees around a common goal, enable them to share challenges and to connect over issues they can help solve.
Disrupting the traditional hierarchy of the workplace can also create diversity across the business, for example through a reverse mentoring scheme where junior employees mentor senior employees. This can help to bridge hierarchical gaps and create stronger social connections throughout the whole workforce.

The Harvard Business Review says this method of mentoring helps increase retention of millennials, drives culture change, helps share digital skills and promotes diversity across a company.

While social wellbeing has been strongly challenged in 2020 and well into 2021, there remains strategies that businesses can implement to maintain and develop employees’ resilience. COVID-19 has presented a unique opportunity for employers to look at what they are offering and how they can adapt it to best support their employees, and therefore their business.

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