Almost a year and a half after our whole world was blown apart by COVID 19 – Workers were sent home to work in isolation at home, the office became a thing of the past – little did we know that we would still be at home with just a distant memory of what the workplace means, and where the workplace is.
As life still isn’t back to what might be called normal, many companies have given up the idea of the office altogether, whilst some others are starting to prepare for the journey back into what we used to call the workplace, a place where we work. In the last 18 months we have had the odd feeling of “Working from home, but living at work” and no clear definition of the difference.
Whatever your company has elected to do, the area of development/learning and training we need to pay close attention to is something I am calling “Social Health”. Social health is an idea that we do not exist in isolation, no man (or woman) is an island, and that in order to be healthy we need to look not just at our physical and emotional health but how we fit into our communities, our families, our more connected world. This doesn’t just mean online either – we have mirror neurons in our brain that need actual face to face contact with humans. Mirror neurons is how we learn to interact socially and we need live feedback from the people we are interacting with. The current WHO definition of health, formulated in 1948, describes health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” we certainly have paid very close attention to the idea of disease in the last year or so, but we have ignored how our social health has been totally decimated.
It is said that a tsunami of mental health issues are on the way in the UK certainly and most probably in the world generally. The mental health issues, it could be said, are generated from the absence of any social health we have been able to nurture over this period. These wide-ranging mental health issues have not erupted spontaneously from nowhere (by and large) – the root cause has been our very isolation. It is interesting that in the West, mental health issues are very much looked on as the responsibility of the individual but in other cultures, the health of the mind is taken on by society more widely.
So how do we nurture this social health, getting us back and operating like humans again – real humans, ones that speak, laugh, bond and form friendships?
Teach your people how to laugh – It might seem very obvious but teaching people to laugh and let go, is key to reforming bonds – my colleague Jon Bockelmann-Evans is a genius at something called “laughter yoga” – which isn’t contorting yourself into weird shapes for the rest of the office to have a good chuckle over – it is the art of creating and cultivating laughter on purpose. Trust me, the best tonic!
Get people to tell their COVID stories – everyone regretfully has a story to tell around COVID – this might not be about actually having COVID, or knowing people who had COVID, but it might be about the impact of the restrictions, isolation and lack of control has had over the last year or so. Sharing stories is a way of bonding. Getting people to speak to each other rather than ignoring the great big elephant in the room, is a way to reform our social health. An underappreciated fact is that our immune system relies on being with other people to function at its best – we gain all sorts of clues from our environment.
People need to eat together – where possible, get your team out to share a meal together – eating together is something so foundational, binding and bonding like no other activity – eating together is about trust, letting go and finding what it is to be really human in an activity that is of the body and visceral rather than of the head.
We need ways to mend our battered and bruised Social Health (which might be a root of Mental Health?) – we need to talk about the Covid elephant in the room, and remember that it is connection, and social interaction that makes us really human, and enables us to thrive.
Kate Cook is a nutrition and wellbeing expert of over 20 years and author of 8 books – to read more please click here: www.katecook.biz to book a call with Kate, please click this link: https://go.oncehub.com/KateCook