We’re in this together: Workplace wellness and social influence

January 11, 2017 Steven Laird

The results of our 2016 Global Wellness Survey were recently released, and 86% of respondents indicated their wellbeing programs were increasing employee engagement. Studies have shown that healthier employees are more engaged and that more engaged employees improve the organizational image and are more productive. Not surprisingly, our survey respondents supported this, indicating their wellbeing programs impacted those areas.

“The workplace…is an ideal place to influence behavior.”
Lizann Reitmeier

 I just saw an interview with Dr. Mark Hyman, the Director of the Cleveland Clinic Centre for Functional Medicine. He called chronic illness “social illness”. According to him, if your friends are overweight, you have a much higher chance of being overweight than if your parents are overweight. Take that, genetics!

Is it possible that wellbeing programs are more important than anyone thought? Dr. Hyman believes that socially transmitted health messages influence the lifestyle choices we make. And study after study has proven those lifestyle choices, such as what we eat and drink, if we smoke and if we are active, impact our risk for chronic disease.

Since much of our social activity occurs in the workplace, it is an ideal place to influence behavior. Personally, I took up long distance running in response to a workplace challenge. Being an extrovert, I didn’t want to be left out; even if I was at the back of the pack, at least I was in the pack. This is probably not the right motivation or behavior for most people, but you get the idea. If some of the people in your workplace are walking at lunch, they will influence the people around them. Ditto with healthy eating. Workplace wellness programs and workplace health challenges provide an opportunity for social interaction that spreads wellbeing and may lead to better lifestyle choices.

A similar approach could work with financial wellbeing. While many people are afraid of money, talking about financial matters increases understanding. This in turn could lead to better financial choices, such as saving for retirement. Knowing that you have a rainy day fund and a retirement plan can reduce your stress and increase your wellbeing.

While mental illness is a complex problem, this is another opportunity for social impact. Bell Canada’s multi-year Let’s Talk campaign reinforces that it is best to reach out for help when you are dealing with mental health issues. This year the campaign is focusing on being supportive to those facing challenges. January 25th is Let’s Talk day. Bell will make a donation based on the calls, texts, tweets, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat posts for that day. That’s pretty social. They have a tool kit for workplaces on the Bell Let’s Talk website. While social activity will not cure any type of illness, it can encourage someone to seek help and that can make all the difference.

This year, let’s resolve to use social tools for good, instead of evil, and encourage lifestyle choices that reduce the risk of chronic illness, increase financial preparedness and support a mentally healthy workplace. Social channels can be quite engaging and affordable. I would love to discuss how this would fit into your wellness whenever you are free. Right now though, I am just popping out to find some thin friends!

Be well!

 

 

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