In Culture, Employee Engagement

As we strive for “work-life balance,” the question arises: are we working to live or living to work? With an army of brilliant researchers studying organizational psychology and workplace culture, remarkable insights about work and its role in happiness and health have emerged.

The average American will spend one-third of their lives (over 90,000 hours!) at work. That statistic underscores the central role that work plays in our lives. However, recent research out of the Personality and Social Psychology Review shows that people who feel more camaraderie with their work colleagues and more connection to the company itself, have significantly greater health and happiness than their peers–not just at work, but overall in life.

Maybe it isn’t a matter of working to live or living to work- but rather asking this question: What if your work could help you live longer, healthier, and happier?

The research is abundantly clear:

  • Adults who are more socially connected are healthier and live longer than their more isolated peers. In the longest study ever conducted on adult development and happiness, 724 adults were tracked for 75+ years, producing tens of thousands pages of information and one resounding takeaway: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.
  • Social connectivity is a greater predictor in longevity of life than quitting smoking, not consuming alcohol, having clean air, and regularly exercising. As Julianne Holt-Lunstad at Brigham Young University found across 148 studies with 308,849 participants, the number one and two predictors of a longer life are 1) being socially integrated (having relationships in your life that span the range from very close to very weak, whether it’s your Uber driver or your significant other), and 2) having close relationships.

So where do work relationships come in? Not everyone at work is going to be your close friend. But every interaction with a co-worker is an opportunity to foster a high-quality connection and improve social connectivity overall.

According to University of Michigan Distinguished University professor Jane Dutton, high quality connections (HQCs) are positive connections between two people that are marked by vitality, mutuality, and positive regard.

Hopefully high-quality connections abound in our personal lives, but since we spend one-third of our lives at work, we should pursue them at work enthusiastically as well.

One of the most effective ways to form high quality connections is to give and ask for help. Reciprocity and high-quality connections are mutually reinforcing and perpetually generative. HQCs foster the practice of reciprocity; reciprocity builds new connections and improves the quality of connections between people.

Giving and asking for help increases social connectivity, improving our physical well-being and quality of life at the same time. Reciprocity enriches our workplaces and our lives. To our earlier question of whether it is better to live to work or work to live- I pose a third possibility. When we build high quality connections, our work becomes life-giving and works for us.

Learn how Givitas can help you build reciprocity and HQCs at work.

Download the Givitas Solution Sheet


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