Recent months have put our need for social wellbeing into sharp focus. Not surprisingly, one of the greatest motivations for clients approaching us about wellbeing activities over the past months has been the need to connect their teams working remotely.

Employees are finding themselves stranded at home, coping with multiple stresses, from home-schooling to loneliness. And they are all united in one fact that makes everything so much harder: no longer being able to share those impromptu exchanges that we all used to take for granted. Certainly in my days of office life, friendly banter was always a fixture, and colleagues an important part of my support network.

I know a lot of employers right now are concerned about the impact remote working is having on social wellbeing. Strong social connections have been shown to build emotional resilience. A lack of social support has been linked to depression, decreased immune function, and higher blood pressure. Some studies have found that we catch fewer colds and injuries heal faster when we have reliable social support around us and people with strong relationships are 50% less likely to die prematurely.

We are restricted when it comes to ways of addressing this, but there are 5 recommendations I would make to clients who want to build social wellbeing into their programme:

1. Include live sessions as part of your wellbeing programme

Participants may not be together in the same room, but having a set date in the diary has a mobilising effect (we’ve all experienced how easy it is to put off watching a recording). It also means a chance to spark conversations around the topics covered in the session and connect in a way that feels natural.

2. Aim to cover a wide variety of topics within your wellbeing calendar

Virtual networking and coffee mornings have their place but without an agenda they can easily lose momentum. The opportunity to learn new things and take steps to improve wellbeing provides a shared purpose that brings people together. The key is to keep things fresh and varied with topics that appeal to many different interests and backgrounds.

3. Make things fun with some friendly competition

Whether it’s with a step challenge or a quiz, there are ways to tap into competitive spirits remotely. Since the pandemic began, we’ve experimented with Facebook group competitions (‘most colourful plate’, ‘best breakfast photo’) and quizzes specifically based on the content of some of our webinars. They are particularly successful when prizes are involved (sent to winners’ home addresses of course).

4. Consider organising group coaching sessions as well as webinars

Webinars offer the opportunity for learning but time for discussion is naturally limited. Group coaching is a great way to give participants the floor in a way that’s guided towards effective outcomes. By far the most beneficial and morale boosting aspect of these sessions is the ability to share struggles and realise that others are facing similar difficulties.

5. Food is a powerful connector

We may not be able to share a meal in the same room, but the next best thing to tasting food is talking about it. We’ve worked with companies who have organised cook-alongs led by employees and we’ve also run them for clients, with a specific nutritional / health benefits focus. Participants have the option of buying ingredients beforehand and sharing in the ‘hands-on’ experience or simply watching and gleaning inspiration for future meals.

Find out more about our webinar: ‘The Power of Social Wellbeing’

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