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Why social connections are as important as eating veggies

Updated: Apr 6, 2021

Connecting your workforce is something that all companies have been focusing on throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, I have an entire whiteboard filled with examples of how companies from around the world are doing it in a variety of ways.

But have we ever stopped to ask ourselves why? Why are we doing it?

Many would say that it’s to replace the ‘water cooler’ moments, which is absolutely true, but it’s so much more. In fact, social connections have been proven to improve physical health and psychological wellbeing, which means they’re right up there with eating your veggies, working out and getting a proper night’s sleep.

And that’s because according to research social connections can:

  1. Lower the rates of anxiety and depression

  2. Increase self-esteem

  3. Improve trust and cooperation

  4. Strengthen our immune system

  5. Lead to increase chance of longevity

So how do you improve social connections and benefit from these positive impacts? Here are six tips to help you as you continue to develop and roll out social connection programs:

Tip 1 – Start with why

The first question you should ask yourself before rolling out a program to drive social connections is ‘why’ – why does my business and people want and need these connections? Is it to achieve a business objective, e.g. complete a project, is it to improve cooperation between team members, or is it just to have a bit of fun? If you start by answering this question, you’ll have a better chance of having the social connections tick the box, and achieve your objectives.

Tip 2 – Don’t do it alone

Over the years I’ve learned that some of ‘my’ best ideas are those that have come from others, which means that when it comes to coming up with ideas, I leverage the combined creativity of my entire organization. Whether it’s bringing in a committee to help you and/or conducting pulse surveys to ask your entire workforce for input, if you bring your employees into the process I promise you the results will be much better.

Tip 3 – Trial and error

Another thing I’ve learned over the years is the power of trial and error, especially when it comes to things like social connections. For example, one company I interviewed told me that at the start of the pandemic they sent every employee a jump rope, with the idea that they would do virtual jump rope sessions. What they found out was that employees actually didn’t want to jump with one another, so they quickly scrapped this idea and moved onto something else. So don’t get too precious about programs, if they work continue them, and if they don’t, move (or jump) on!

Tip 4 – Have something for everyone

Often we create programs to meet the needs of our loudest employees, those that share ideas and/or shout the loudest. And while we certainly want to meet their needs, it’s important to hear all voices and design programs around the diverse needs of our entire workforce. For example, consider those that may not be comfortable with certain activities or competitions, and find ways where they do feel comfortable and thus, can achieve the benefits of social connections.

Tip 5 – Involve families

During lockdown, many companies have invited family members into social connections for the first time. This has been beneficial in that it helps meet their social connection needs, encourages employees to participate when they may not have done so, and even improves employee engagement as family members are seeing the benefits of the employee working at the company.

Tip 6 – Have managers involved

Last, and certainly not least, is to stress the important role that managers have when it comes to social connections. The more they can get involved with the connection activities, role modelling it to others, the better chance you have of your workforce engaging. Whether it’s leading an activity or merely being a participant, encourage them to have an active role in activities as well as 1:1 social connections with their team. And if they don’t believe it’s important . . . . share with them the benefits I listed at the start of this blog.

And in case you’ve run out of ideas for social connections, let me end with a list of 21 virtual activities from my whiteboard:

  1. Exercise Class

  2. Pub Quiz

  3. Happy Hour

  4. Meditation Class

  5. Talent Competition

  6. Dance Party

  7. Cooking Class

  8. Come Dine with Me

  9. Murder Mystery Party

  10. Cocktail Making Class

  11. Bake Off

  12. Book Club

  13. Art Class

  14. Guess the Baby Picture

  15. Running/walking Club

  16. Wine Tasting Class

  17. Pet Talent Competition

  18. Parent’s Club

  19. Chess Lessons

  20. Kid’s Coloring Competition

  21. Children’s Storytelling


About the author:

Debra Corey is a highly experienced and award-winning HR leader, world-class speaker, three-time author, consultant, and was named one of the top 101 global employee engagement influencers. She’s had a varied career, working for global companies such as Gap Inc., Merlin Entertainments and Reward Gateway, where she’s developed and delivered HR strategies in a rebellious way, pushing the boundaries and challenging the status quo to truly drive employee engagement.

In 2019 Debra founded her own company, DebCo HR, where as Chief Pay It Forward Solutions Officer she’s inspiring and helping others to bring out their inner rebel and drive business change.


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