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The Benefits of Friendship

by Shandy McLean ASEBP | April 14 2016 | 1 Comment

How do the personal relationships we have with colleagues affect our wellness in the workplace? This is a question I’ve been reflecting on since reading Barry Litun’s recent blog.

I have worked with amazing, supportive colleagues in virtually every organization I’ve been a part of, and being a part of those teams made me feel well—healthy even. Have I just been lucky? Or did these workplaces share any common characteristics that made staying mentally and physically healthy easier? If yes, what can be applied in your workplace?

Getting to know your neighbours

I think going for coffee (or whatever your ‘at work beverage preference’ may be) is a big equalizer. At virtually every place I’ve worked we would gather the whole team together at least once a week and head over to the nearest coffee shop. “The more the merrier” was always the group mantra and we were sure to cast the invitation net wide.

On our way over we’d share stories, laugh together and get to know more about our outside-of-work lives. All in all, it took about 10-15 minutes of time, but the return on investment was far greater. Through these informal excursions, we often became close friends and trusted colleagues—in ways that transcended simply working together.

Those who work out together…

Being active with your colleagues is another great way to connect. This can be as simple as going for walks during lunch time or joining your colleagues in a group exercise class. At ASEBP, we have group classes available at work and joining these classes has enabled me to develop personal relationships with colleagues from across the organization.

Exercise is also a great common ground to share. If I find it tough to get to a class at lunch, it won’t be long before one of my workout buddies is politely harassing me to join them. Sharing a laugh about the number of modifications the instructor had to make to accommodate our aging, sore bodies is another frequent occurrence in my life. Being our imperfect human selves together in these activities is a great way to bridge differences in the kind of work we do or our respective roles in the workplace. None of that matters as we’re struggling through that last push up—we are just a bunch of (sore and aching) human beings doing something good for our bodies and creating common ground.

Setting the stage for connecting

When you are planning workplace wellness initiatives, don’t discount the resultant benefit of social connections amongst employees. You can foster this by including formal activities (group fitness challenges, healthy potluck lunches, and staff barbecues) as part of your workplace wellness initiative, or simply be mindful of how you can create and encourage day-to-day human interactions between colleagues who might not naturally connect. These informal interactions—especially when observed by others—can create powerful benchmarks or expectations for how we treat and care for each other as colleagues in the workplace.

Shandy McLean

With a background in social work and a masters in health promotion, 'Shamu' (yes, like the whale) is a tireless advocate in the public health arena and ASEBP’s former director of Health Strategies and Stakeholder Engagement. We know that her questionable claims of being 'related' to actress Claire Danes is a way of coping with her crippling fear of sharks. But it’s okay—we’re all in this together, Shamu.

Jennifer C. ASEBP - | April 14 2016 3:42 PM


Thanks for this great article, Shandy. Having activities in the workplace that bring folks together in a healthy forum has been fantastic for shaping the culture at ASEBP. I particularly love every three months where we all gather for "Life Events Celebrations" (weddings, new babies - who often grace us with their sweet presence, graduations from courses or buying your first house). We acknowledge volunteer hours put in by our staff, and end with a healthy snack. While we are all in one building (except for a few 'distant' employees) we still need opportunities to come together and share.