Research shows employees use online social networks for well-being
Social networks often receive a bad rap at work, which results in many employers being reluctant to allow employees to use social apps such as Facebook or Twitter while on the job. About half of all full-time and part-time workers (51%) say their “workplace has rules about using social media while at work,” according to research from the Pew Research Center.
For an employer, creating a wellness program that uses an online platform may feel like opening Pandora’s Box. But when looking further at the data from Pew Research, it’s clear employees are already using online social networks in the workplace to manage their well-being. Employees in the survey reported that they use social networking to:
With more than a third of all employees already using social networks to take a break from work, it makes sense to provide them with access to online programs that support wellness. Rather than fearing what may happen when people access social networks at work, companies should seek ways to engage employees where they're already spending time.
Long-term connections created in social networks generate results when members observe another member’s positive change. Not only does the person who made the change benefit, their success helps boost others’ confidence levels to make changes in their life.
An example of a program that uses member success to create a ripple effect for change is Daily Challenge® by MeYou Health. Based on a randomized control trial involving 1,500 Daily Challenge members, researchers found that participants’ level of improvement was linked to the level of social interaction in the program. These results make sense: higher levels of participation, combined with higher levels of social interaction, can create improvement in well-being.
Not all online social wellness programs are created equal
While there is power in including an online social network as part of wellness program design, it’s not a magic bullet either. Skillfully using social media as part of wellness program design involves more than creating a Facebook Page or Group, Instagram account, or Twitter handle.
A successful online social wellness program requires having enough participants in the network to develop a robust foundation of peer support. Careful design is necessary to use social media in a way that creates a vast network which employers can use to build momentum that will help drive the success of their wellness program.
Successful wellness design optimizes large social networks
“Open Social” is a term MeYou Health created to describe a design approach that is built on—and embraces—the power of an extensive network of support. The core principle behind this model is to allow members to connect with peers both inside and outside of their company. Program members can create connections with a variety of peers—regardless of location, organization, or stage of wellness.
As MeYou Health Chief Medical Officer Nathan Cobb, MD, explains in Open Social Design for Behavior Change, the power of this approach is threefold. The Open Social model:
Thanks to an Open Social model, rather than just leveraging social power of one’s organization—which could be small, or lose momentum after the initial launch—employees potentially have access to peers all over the world, at many companies.
We see how this works when we consider the Daily Challenge example. The design approach for this wellness offering allows members to connect, track progress, and witness the progress and activity of their peers. Social norms are established when observing other’s successful behavior changes (e.g., walking before work, or bringing a healthy lunch). And, by logging in to track completion of a challenge, there is a level of accountability embedded in the online format.
Leveraging Open Social delivers benefits to employees and employers
When organizations embrace the power of social networks, for a relatively small cost, they profit from the extensive peer network that helps employees establish and maintain behavior changes. Those are the changes that can ultimately help an employer reduce the burden of rising health care costs.
Today’s savvy organizations are headed in the right direction: they’re looking for ways to provide wellness programs and solutions that deliver results through strong connections, 24x7 support, and long-term engagement. Implementing a program with an Open Social design is a critical component of leveraging the power of social networks. This serves to benefit employees, as well as corporate revenue and the bottom line.
About the Author:
Liz Sheffield is a leading writer for HR marketers, publishes the monthly newsletter HR Matters, and is the author of the blog, The People Side of Business. Liz lives near Seattle, Washington with her husband and two sons.