How networking makes you live longer – the importance of social health in an era of “infobesity”
Management systems have been slow to catch up with the information overload suffered by most of today’s businesses / professionals. Whilst people can access the expertise necessary to optimise their diet, exercise, and other physical and environmental factors, there is an increasing awareness of the impact of mental health on business.
Ergonomic desks and the replacement of vending machines with fruit bowls cannot help with the constant push of emails and demands for instant responses. In order for businesses to work effectively they need to protect their investment in training and recruiting talented staff. The same academic rigour needs to be applied to updating the working environment to take account of mental strain as has been applied to physical health.
It is 70 years since the World Health Organisation first defined health. The current discussions on social health define it as the link between physical and mental health. Improving connectedness, using who you know and what you know as a way of navigating through your work and home life, has a proven impact in reducing the incidence of depression and other mental health conditions. At the forefront of those discussions is Julia Hobsbawn OBE who is speaking at the Oxford Martin School on 23 March about surviving and thriving in an age of information overload as part of the FT Weekend Literary Festival.
Julia Hobsbawn’s analysis of the effective management of information overload using improved focus on social health is being featured by the World Economic Forum and the OECD.
Her book “Fully Connected” has been shortlisted for the Management Book of the Year and the Business Book of the Year. She has studied the perfect storm created by increasing information overload and increasing social isolation. Her aim is to develop effective management strategies to maximise the positive impact of time spent networking and thereby preserve and improve well-being and productivity.
Loneliness has been described at the World Economic Forum as a public health crisis. Being able to talk about the stresses of daily life with members of your business and social networks is key to preserving mental health and to being a productive member of those communities.
The importance of social health in an era of “infobesity”
Funding for research into social health is on the increase, following the recognition of its importance. A Harvard study, following several hundred individuals for a period of 75 years, found that the quality of social relationships is the single biggest predictor of the quality of physical and mental health for individuals. It therefore follows that it is a critical factor in retaining and attracting talent. Increasingly, being able to demonstrate the health of the culture in your business by its inclusion in summaries of the best employers is crucial to attracting talent. Where it is unlikely that the information overload will decrease over time, those with a choice seek a healthy work environment to counter-balance its impact.
Social networks are key to improving and maintaining health for the modern workforce. With an increasing awareness of the financial and cultural benefits to business of supporting well-being, focussing on a genuinely healthy culture in your business could be the greatest indicator of its success.