Daily Doses of Social Connection Keep Humans and Businesses Healthy
By Dallyce Brisbin
Did you know that social connection with colleagues and clients is good medicine for our bodies and our businesses? While an apple a day definitely has merits for keeping the doctor away, research shows that positive social engagement also has a powerful effect on our immune systems.
Humans are social creatures by nature. Most people typically associate the term “social” as referring to their relationships with family and friends outside of work. But what about the importance of social interaction in the workplace? The value of this is often overlooked, and sometimes even frowned upon by employers.
However, if you consider that over the course of a lifetime the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work, it makes sense to cultivate business environments that foster positive social connection. This can have a significant effect on the overall well-being of the staff, vendors and customers, which also impacts the company’s financial bottom line.
There is an accounting theory called triple bottom line for companies who want to measure and grow their overarching impact beyond just their monetary bottom line. It focuses on what is referred to as the 3Ps: people, planet and profit. It is embraced by businesses that recognize that health and longevity are determined by a web of interdependent components, and requires them to consider the impact of their decisions on the people and the planet while they grow their profitability. They understand that the healthier their people and communities are, the better opportunity they have to thrive as a business. They recognize that they are part of an ecosystem and do not operate independently from the world around them.
People are the lifeblood of business; this includes employees, owners, vendors, customers and community members. When people feel valued, respected, included and supported, they tend to respond by becoming engaged, inspired, active and loyal. Studies show that happy employees tend to be more effective at their jobs and healthier overall, which means they are less likely to call in sick. Joy and happiness can spread through an office just as easily as a flu virus, and feeling socially connected has been proven to boost your immune system, which actually makes you less likely to catch the flu.
No business can survive, let alone thrive, without vendors and customers. The social interaction between a business and its customers is another connection point that can have a significant impact on someone’s well-being and create a ripple effect of positivity. When serving a customer, we never know when we might be the only light in someone’s day. For example, when a senior talks a little too long at the register, remember you may be their three minutes of social connection out of an entire day. Enjoy the opportunity to connect with them rather than resist it.
When someone is cranky or complaining, they may be frustrated with something that did not go as expected or something else in life. By responding to challenging people with respect and kindness, a sincere effort to find a fair resolution is often all that is needed to disarm the upset. Many times people just want to be seen, heard or acknowledged with honor and respect, rather than dismissed.
Vendors also love to work with businesses that make doing business fun and exciting. As fellow business owners, we often tie our reputations and our financial stability together. The stronger our relationship connection, the more likely we are to have flexibility with each other when things do not go as planned.
You can also foster positive social connections as a customer. It is fun to be the customer who people love to see and love to serve when you use or visit their business. You never know the ripple effect you can create by smiling, making eye contact, stopping your busyness for even a few seconds to actually be present with the person in front of you, whether that person is a colleague, a customer or the owner or an employee of a business you are patronizing.
Businesses are also community members. Communities tend to come together in times of celebration and times of sorrow and businesses keep the lifeblood of the community flowing every day. Participating in municipal events and supporting local causes is an important way for businesses to foster positive social engagement. The more inclusive and connected a community feels, the healthier it becomes across the board.
Look for ways to be more inclusive and embrace opportunities to mix things up from your daily routine. Grab lunch with someone different, welcome a new coworker and help them feel included, or coordinate a fun team building outing.
Ultimately, it is our presence that is the greatest gift we can give. The golden rule “treat others the way you wish to be treated” is just as important in business as it is in life. We generate and foster goodwill by honoring others, even if we do not feel we have much in common or we find them pushing our buttons.
Business environments can be a great place to practice different ways to be fully present with people, and efficient with your time and mindful of your ability to influence the health and well-being of those you interact with every day at home and at work.