If job control is one important aspect of a healthy workplace, social support is another. Research going back to the 1970s consistently demonstrates a connection between social support and health. Having friends protects “your health as much as quitting smoking and a great deal more than exercising,” even though survey evidence suggests that the “number of Americans who say they have no close friends has roughly tripled in recent decades.”
Social Support Can Have a Direct Effect on Health
The evidence shows that social support—family and friends you can count on, as well as close relationships—can have a direct effect on health and buffers the effects of various psychosocial stresses, including workplace stress, that can compromise health. For instance, one review noted that “people who were less socially integrated” and “people with low levels of social support” had higher mortality rates.
Unfortunately, workplaces sometimes have characteristics that make it harder to build relationships and provide support. Consider, for example, practices that foster internal competition such as forced curve ranking, which reduces collaboration and teamwork. In fact, anything that pits people against one another weakens social ties among employees and reduces the social support that produces healthier workplaces. Equally destructive are transactional workplace approaches in which people are seen as factors of production and where the emphasis is on trading money for work, without much emotional connection between people and their place of work.
Rooting out practices like these is a good starting point for leaders seeking to build environments with stronger social support. Also invaluable are actions such as the ones described below. These sound straightforward and are already practiced by a number of companies, but nonetheless are easy to overlook.
A Culture of Social Support
Giving people more control over their work life and providing them with social support fosters higher levels of physical and mental health. A culture of social support also reinforces for employees that they are valued, and thus helps in a company’s efforts to attract and retain people. Job control, meanwhile, has a positive impact on individual performance and is one of the most important predictors of job satisfaction and work motivation, frequently ranking as more important even than pay. Management practices that strengthen job control and social support are often overlooked but relatively straightforward—and they provide a payoff to employees and employers alike.
Lucubrate Magazine, Issue 42, October 12th, 2018
The Photo On Top: javiindy
From the McKinsey Quarterly September 2018: The overlooked essentials of employee well-being. Jeffrey Pfeffer