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Media and advocacy


The need to connect

3 August 2020, 
Sarah McCann-Bartlett

Friends are so important to our lives that they lengthen it – research that shows having close social ties will positively affect your life expectancy. There are also a variety of other psychological and physical health benefits that come from engaging and investing in close relationships, including increased happiness and a lower rate of chronic illnesses.

For me, making friends and connecting with people is much easier than exercising or eating my five-a-day. And, having moved countries a number of times, ‘making new friends’ has always been on the top of my to-do list.

The human need for connection and its ties to health are particularly relevant right now. Many people have struggled with isolation often because so many of us get our daily or weekly dose of socialisation from the workplace.

Some communities in our country are in lockdown and struggling with isolation once again. It has been so good to see HR practitioners successfully focusing the attention of CEOs and management on maintaining employee wellbeing through these difficult times. Much like the link between friendship and mortality, it has been known for some time that the wellbeing of employees has an effect on business sustainability.

The pandemic has been traumatising in so many ways. What has made it more bearable is that it is a shared trauma. Leaders who before might not have felt or connected with the struggles of employees now do so easily.

The hope is that this continues after the pandemic subsides, because there is so much that we get from the workplace that positively contributes to our wellbeing. Most researchers see the link between employee engagement and wellbeing as a virtuous circle. Adding positive workplace relationships to the circle strengthens both employee wellbeing and engagement.

I’ve spoken to many members who appreciate the connections and relationships with like-minded professionals that AHRI membership delivers. While part of this is about professional development and career progression, a lot of it is about the personal benefits and a sense of being connected that making personal relationships and friendships brings.

It may be quite some time before we meet at a large-scale event such as AHRI’s National Convention and Exhibition again, but in the meantime, virtual connections with our colleagues will sustain us.

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