Listen, we get it. Social wellness is important. So important they dedicated a whole month to reminding us how important it is. But let’s face it, meeting new people can be hard. Really fricken hard. No matter who you are. Why is that? Well, it could be the fact that Americans spend on average 48 hours a week… alone, according to the US Census Bureau’s American Time Use Survey. Or it could be because nearly half of Amerians report having three friends or less. Or it could be because the average young person in the US spends up to 8 hours a day on social media. Take your pick.
But why are we doing this to ourselves? Aren’t we social animals? We have enough evidence to know that neglecting our social wellness is detrimental to our physical, mental and emotional well being and yet we continue to isolate ourselves. Did we learn anything from suffering through a pandemic or did we just get used to being alone?
As a part of our DIBE (Diversity, Inclusion, Belonging and Equity) series “More Than a Month”, Alexis, our Lead Project Manager here at The Sound, reflects on her social wellness and personal experience as a mom of two, struggling to establish a social network she can truly lean on.
Here is Alexis’ story…
Raise your hand if you knew July was Social Wellness Month. (Crickets) Me neither! That said, the world is evolving to recognize how personal mental health impacts the public and professional sphere; so this July might be the month to consider your Social Wellness.
For me, I’ve always felt lucky to have a close-knit group of friends since college. Fast forward to the present day; I am entering a fresh chapter of life with two toddlers. I find myself with new struggles that encompass all of my non-working, waking hours. And sadly, no one in my close-knit group is in a relatable chapter. While being a parent is a dream come true, it has come with an unexpected, and at times unbearable, amount of fear and isolation. I am always coming up short in time for my husband, my friends, for sleep, for meal prep, for cleaning, but especially for these precious little monsters I (mostly) adore.
So where does this leave me and my social wellness? Mostly disappointed, to be honest. I wish my friend’s birthing years lined up more closely with mine, so I could find solace in playdates with my besties. I have reluctantly recognized I need to find some “Mom Friends.”
I am intimidated to search for that perfect alchemy of parenting styles, lifestyles, gender/age mixes, nap schedules and last (which sometimes feels least important) personalities.
Imagine this – you finally solidify a playdate after weeding through all the ‘let’s meet up’ niceties with moms you encounter in your basic routine. Cue the self scrutiny for all the sleep deprived decisions made about yourself, your home, your child’s development and your general survival from the past 12 months. Then, enter a social situation where you struggle to have a meaningful conversation through constant interruptions for potty breaks, snack requests, battles over toys, etc. Finally, a glimmer of hope! A topic of mutual interest that could let you shine through all this mom you’ve got going on, only to have your lovely little squirt bite someone. Playdate awkwardly comes to a close. -sigh- Being a mom is hard, but making mom friends somehow feels harder.
Those without kids are thinking, ‘Ok, being a mom is hard, but so is [INSERT PERSONAL STRUGGLE HERE]’. And you are right! Being a mom is hard, and so is being childless, being single, being married, being promoted, being under-employed, being young, being old. Life is hard and each facet of it comes with struggles where one might need support.
We are all facing different chapters where the magic of YOU is buried under the constraints and expectations of the world around us. We all deserve the moments with others where we can see and be seen; to feel the warmth of sharing your true self with another. These moments are crucial to our social wellness (and overall happiness!), and somehow more difficult to achieve than ever in our curated, digitally enabled lives.
So whether you want to do it in honor of July’s Social Wellness Month or just for the heck of it – take some time to consider how you might make space for more of these moments in your life.
- Seek new relationships with people who can share and commiserate in your current chapter of life.
- Start a new hobby (or reinvigorate an old pastime) that might allow you to diversify your social network.
- Enter your everyday encounters more vulnerably, by pushing aside the low hanging fruit of conversation. Share something deeper and ask questions that allow space for others to do the same.
Remember, while it may not be easy to push out of routine conversation, there is value in sharing the you that is underneath all the layers of the roles and responsibilities you carry.
Thanks Alexis for reminding us to find connections in the simple, everyday moments as they come to foster social wellness.
Pre-pandemic, the old cliche was that you spent more time with your co-workers than at home. The world has evolved and remote and hybrid work has adjusted this statistic, so it’s time to recognize the gap it’s created when it comes to social wellness.
Not only are Americans spending more time alone, according to Gallup data from a HBR Article, more than 300 million people globally don’t have a single friend, and more than 20% of people don’t have friends or family they can count on whenever they need them.
Hence, people are looking for more social interactions and meaningful connections at work. In fact, Gallup data shows that having a “best friend” at work has become more important since the start of the pandemic.
It takes a community of support to foster social wellness, which includes the social network you provide to your employees. So how can you foster a sense of social wellness/belonging within your company?
1. Lead by example: Establish unity by connecting remote/on-site employees’ responsibilities to the collective organizational vision and goals. Set a positive example by displaying inclusive behavior, providing open feedback, and advocating for inclusivity across the organization.
2. Make sure everyone feels heard and respected: Encourage open dialogue and feedback, and take time to listen to each other’s opinions and perspectives. Support an inclusive culture by implementing policies and practices that celebrate diversity, respect differences, and promote collaboration.
3. Encourage team building activities to develop more meaningful connections: Take time to learn about each other’s backgrounds, interests, and experiences to build trust. Commit to activities, such as company retreats, team lunches, happy hours, volunteer activities or team outings, to help foster meaningful relationships amongst team members and show that everyone is valued.
4. Celebrate diversity: Celebrate the diversity of your team by recognizing the unique backgrounds and talents of each individual. Highlight the importance of learning from one another and creating a culture of acceptance. Mentor colleagues from different backgrounds by sharing your authentic story, empowering them to do the same, and listening with care.
5. Create an inclusive environment through open and honest dialogue: Hold regular meetings for employees to discuss their experiences and feelings, and encourage employees to share their ideas and be open to feedback. Create an environment where everyone feels comfortable expressing themselves and their ideas.
6. Foster a sense of community: Create a shared sense of purpose and mutual trust beyond the daily grind and paycheck. Help the team recognize what’s meaningful to them, then encourage them to connect that to a common purpose. Hold open forums or discussion groups that create a safe space for employees to discuss various or personal topics and ask questions.
7. Celebrate success through recognition and rewards, both big and small: Acknowledge employees’ achievements and contributions. Celebrate successes and show appreciation for hard work. Celebrating small wins will help foster a sense of team spirit and accomplishment.
8. Invest in employee development: Ensure employees have the tools and resources they need to succeed and feel supported in their current role and resources and opportunities for development through access to programs, resources and learning opportunities that will help them grow professionally to reach their full potential.
But at the end of the day… you can’t force it.
Building a true sense of social wellness in the workplace isn’t about forcing relationships through rigid policies or processes. Every company dynamic is different, as are the people within them, so there is no one size fits all solution to creating a sense of belonging. Gather feedback, listen to your team, implement and make changes, as necessary… then repeat.
So whether it’s at work, at home, in your community, or even online… take a second to look around you. There are other people out there. People feeling the exact same way you are. People who may be afraid to start a conversation in the grocery store line up, or make a new friend at college, or join an affinity group at their local community center. People looking to improve their social wellness but not knowing how. Life’s hard and we’re all going through it. Wouldn’t it be nice to go through it… together?