8 ways to develop a strategy on social wellbeing

8 ways to develop a strategy on social wellbeing

11 Apr 2023

Working Voices Ltd

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This informal CPD article ‘8 ways to develop a strategy on social wellbeing’ was provided by Dan Parry, Head of Content for Working Voices, a global training company specialising in interpersonal communication skills.

Social wellbeing is fast becoming a major learning and development theme of this year. Struggling with a potent mix of challenges to culture, engagement and retention, organisations are recognising a need to re-imagine the 2020s workplace. Social wellbeing offers them a practical strategy towards achieving this.

What is Social Wellbeing?

Social wellbeing is the collective name for workplace behaviours that build trust, respect and belonging, ultimately leading to a healthier culture and stronger cohesion. Supporting everyone, from new hires to seasoned leaders, social wellbeing offers a break from outdated past practices by encouraging a healthier approach to the way that people are managed.

In the 1980s, organisations expected their people to give more for less: more hours, with smaller teams, less flexibility and sometimes less humanity. Work-life balance became stretched, burnout became a thing, and lunch was for wimps. In the 21st century, digital tech enables life to move faster still. People can be reached 24/7, potentially leading to an exhausting, always-on mentality.

In response, organisations sometimes believed that stressed out people needed a lovely brand of coffee – served fresh in communal areas resembling a slimmed-down version of a New York loft, where people could play ping pong or sign up to free gym membership. In other words, individuals could enjoy freebie physical and mental wellbeing services intended to help them keep up with work practices that were undermining their wellbeing in the first place.

Creating social wellbeing in the workplace

Before 2020, flexibility was limited. Organisations had 101 reasons why their people couldn’t work from home, presentism seemed to matter more than engagement – attitudes that were popular 40 years ago. Gen Z’s informality, impatience and interest in ‘living the experience’ was starting to chip away at the old way of things. Then Covid suddenly ushered in new freedoms, new flexibility, hybrid working and new levels of trust.

Employers who couldn’t adapt were exposed to the ‘great resignation’, with 47.8 million US workers quitting1 their jobs during 2021. By early 2022, 66% of executives responding to Mercer’s Global Talent Trends survey2 said they faced a labour shortage crisis.

 Labour shortages are only part of the problem. Productivity is also threatened by disengagement. According to Gallup’s 2022 State of the Global Workplace report3, 60% of people reported being emotionally detached at work. Causes and effects of this include social media’s immediacy, and short-form content, shortening attention spans.

How to develop social wellbeing

As of October 2022, a third of UK adults4 were offered neither physical nor emotional wellbeing support at work, at all. In the US, the “silent epidemic”5 of loneliness at work costs employers more than $154 billion per year in stress-related absenteeism. When wellbeing is left to individuals, not everyone is willing to regularly go to the gym or openly ask a manager for mental health support.

However, by sharing responsibility for wellbeing, organisations ease some of the burden. They can do this by regarding employees not just as individuals, each supporting their employer, but as members of teams together supporting each other. By strengthening social structures in the workplace, organisations build a social wellbeing strategy that nurtures cohesion. Here’s how to make a start:

Help your leaders create culture. Restrict harmful micro-managing, instead train your managers in developing a positive sense of respect for their people, so that they in turn can regard each other in the same way. 

Make better use of hybrid practices. As a leader, assess whether people are making best use of time in the office and time at home. In-person time is a chance to unite the team, (while guarding against proximity bias where team-members who are connecting virtually from home can feel marginalised).

Building social confidence. With team-members working in different locations, there is an increased risk of miscommunication and misunderstanding. It’s essential to find time to include warmth and humanity in communication, beyond a simple transactional exchange of information.

Ways to develop a social wellbeing strategy

Think of the ‘social human’ at work. Culture used to focus on a centralised office. Update this by developing a sense of belonging. This is best done by fostering a healthy sense of pride in the team, the workplace, and the organisation.

Create a psychological safe space. This is more than a phrase muttered in a meeting. Maintain a genuine sense of equity by nurturing emotional intelligence and empathy. For example, amplify others who might sometimes struggle to be heard.

Think about language. Positive ‘towards’ words, such as ‘explore’ and ‘opportunity’ are more likely to spark a helpful response than provocative words that push away at confidence, such as ‘difficulty’ and ‘problem’.

Don’t reinvent the wheel. It’s not easy to bring about change, especially in a large organisation. Maybe you don’t need to create new processes, it might be more productive to give new clarity and purpose to those you already have.

Add social wellbeing to your DNA. Just as organisations have fused diversity and inclusion into everything from recruitment to promotions, social wellbeing is best adopted as an all-embracing strategy, reshaping the way things are done.

Assumptions such as ‘that’s just the way our company is, we’re known for it’, needn’t be the last word in change. One team can develop a culture that’s different to another’s. Something that works for you might not work with others on the floor below. Nor can it be assumed that all cultures are either healthy or toxic. Two people in the same team might have different interpretations of what they see around them. Given this need for flexibility and understanding, psychological safety is an essential part of bringing a team together.

Difficulties can be smoothed out through personal development, with a focus on future skills such as social wellbeing. Coaching for leaders, and training for groups, can lead to stronger understanding, support, and engagement that benefits both organisations and their people. You know things are working when employees can say with pride that ‘I like what I’m doing, where I’m doing it, with the bunch of people I’m working with.’

Workplaces are changing, driven by employees’ expectations for healthier values and wider responsibilities in wellbeing. Mercer make the point that “Organizations predicting high growth, those with a thriving workforce and those with innovation cultures all share one agenda this year: a focus on becoming more human, and in turn, more relatable.” Forward-thinking leaders will want to join the direction of travel towards the rise of “relatable” organisations. By focusing on social wellbeing, and investing in the people who will safeguard their future, organisations will avoid being left behind.

We hope this articles was helpful. For more information from Working Voices, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively, you can go to the CPD Industry Hubs for more articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.


1. https://hbr.org/2022/03/the-great-resignation-didnt-start-with-the-pandemic

2. https://www.mercer.com/newsroom/global-talent-trends-2022.html

3. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/349484/state-of-the-global-workplace-2022-report.aspx

4. https://www.nuffieldhealth.com/healthiernation

5. https://newsroom.cigna.com/business-case-addressing-loneliness-workforce

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Working Voices Ltd

Working Voices Ltd

For more information from Working Voices Ltd, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

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