As human beings, social connection is in our nature – family ties, romantic relationships and friendships are important aspects of a person’s life. The Mental Health Foundation defines relationships as “the way in which two or more people are connected, or the state of being connected”. Connection is an integral part of our everyday experiences, and importantly (and often unknowingly) our wellbeing.
Having healthy relationships can have a positive impact on our lives that isn’t socially limited. Research has shown that positive and healthy relationships can result in better cardiovascular function (blood pressure during times of stress, HDL cholesterol levels), lowered cortisol levels and enhanced oxytocin levels, enhanced immune function and improved health behaviours and choices. In other words connections with others helps to strengthen your immune system, help you recover from diseases and can potentially lengthen your life.
In contrast, lack of connection (loneliness) can have negative consequences on your health, leading to disrupted sleep patterns, elevated blood pressure, and increased stress levels. This can weaken your immune system and decrease your overall sense of happiness.
While connection with other people can have its benefits, it’s the quality of those connections that has the most impact. You can have multiple connections with individuals, however if they’re unhealthy and negative they can do far more harm than good. For example, recent studies from Ireland and the USA have found that negative social interactions and relationships, especially with partners/spouses, increase the risk of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation.
It’s evident that connectedness has an important part to play when it comes to the wellbeing of people. Especially during a time where most of us are separated from our loved ones, and have been for a long period of time, it’s important to do our best to remain connected.
With many of us working from home, this may have put a strain on how we connect and stay connected with our team members and colleagues. You can’t just walk up to someone’s desk and have a quick chat, or meet with your friends for tea or lunch in the office like you used to. However like we’ve seen, connection is integral to employee wellbeing – even more so now where people are more likely to feel isolated and lonely.
Here are some ideas on how to keep your employees connected with one another: