“Social wellbeing” is the talk of the wellbeing town just now, adding another pillar to the well established mental, physical and financial framework.
But do you know what it means?
Boston University has this definition of social wellbeing:
“Social wellbeing is building and maintaining healthy relationships and having meaningful interactions with those around you. It is having a sense of belonging while valuing diversity. It involves open communication, boundary setting, and mutual respect regardless of our differences.”
In the context of an employer, social wellbeing is found in, for example:
– an employee’s relationship with colleagues
– the extent to which they feel they fit in to the company culture and resonate with company values
– the extent to which they feel valued, socially included and that they belong
– the extent to which they feel the company is helping them reach their career potential
– the working environment and whether this creates social connectedness (for both remote workers and in-office workers)
Many companies will already be running social wellbeing initiatives – such as volunteering, team building days, charity work and even flexible working policies which allow more time for hobbies – but not packaging them cohesively under this banner. However, that is starting to change as more employers recognise the importance of social wellbeing.
Social wellbeing strategies more prevalent
For instance, AON’s 11th Benefits & Trends Survey which quizzed 332 HR, employee benefit and rewards specialists, found that the number of employers with a social wellbeing strategy rose by 2 percentage points in 2021, up from 28% in 2020.
Recruitment firm Hays has included social wellbeing as a fundamental pillar of its wellbeing strategy from the outset a year ago, when Head of Wellbeing Hannah Pearsall wrote it.
She defines social wellbeing very similarly to Boston University as:
“The sense of belonging, social inclusion and stability generated through the ability to make and maintain meaningful positive relationships.”
Not just for employees
However, she adds that this definition applies to all relationships, which includes those outside of the workplace too. This is because relationships are central to human happiness and, as she says, if employees are happier outside of work, they are going to be happier and ultimately more productive and higher performing in work. Covid-19 has accelerated the blurring of life and work, too, which means “the two should no longer be looked at in silos”.
“We are beginning to think about social wellbeing from a perspective which also includes our clients and customers as well.”
Crossover with CSR
This means that Hays is looking for ways it can positively influence the wellbeing of the communities in which it operates. “Social wellbeing does crossover into a lot of work that we do from a social impact and corporate social responsibility perspective,” says Pearsall.
For example, Hays has two community projects going on at the moment. One is called ‘100 Talks’ where it worked with two mental health campaigners to deliver 100 talks in secondary schools throughout the UK. The other is a partnership with a charity called Band of Builders (see accompanying photo) which runs a support line for those working in construction, an industry which has one of the highest rates of suicide.
This year Hays published its first standalone ESG report. Pearsall says “I am delighted to see DE&I, including wellbeing, feature so heavily as part of our sustainability framework. This really validates the importance of wellbeing as part of our Social Stakeholder Partnerships and emphasises the need for social wellbeing to impact both in and outside of work.”
One of the reasons that Hays, and Pearsall in particular, are so committed to social wellbeing is the recognition of the importance of relationships to wellbeing.
“Satisfaction with relationships is the number one predictor of wellbeing,” says Pearsall. “And I firmly believe that work should be a determinant of positive wellbeing, which is why this pillar is so important and why it feels outdated to separate work and personal life in our social wellbeing strategy.”