Make Time for (and Design for) Human Connection
Relationships are vital to our overall happiness and well-being. We all know this and yet it is so easy to take them for granted or not carve out the time. Why?
Well, our lives are busy. We spend our days balancing endless meetings, school activities, and family responsibilities. On top of that, we try to squeeze in exercise and run errands. This leaves us with little to no time to connect. Unfortunately, we become “human doings” rather than “human beings.” In a world of more virtual interactions than physical ones, human connection is more important than ever.
Not convinced? Here are a few benefits to consider from PsychCentral:
• Mental Health Boost
Social connections can offer several mental health benefits, such as boosting mood, reducing stress, and improving self-esteem. A 2018 study by researchers from the American Cancer Society (ACS) examined data from more than 580,000 adults and found that social isolation can contribute to depression, insomnia, and cognitive decline.
• Longer Lifespan
Other research suggests that social isolation can increase the chances of death by at least 50%. A lack of human connection was found to be more harmful than even obesity and smoking.
• Improved Quality of Life
Loneliness has been shown to impact not only our physical health but our emotional health, too. The same 2018 study conducted by the researchers from ACS also found that a lack of social connection may be associated with obesity, heart disease, and smoking. Another study linked social isolation to a 30% increased stroke and heart disease risk, and a 2015 study found that social isolation might also be associated with a lowered immune system, making you more vulnerable to viruses and diseases.
• Increased Fulfillment
We can go through many emotions when we reconnect with friends and family, whether that be through a quick phone call or on a nature hike. We’re either laughing, crying, or venting. When we express these emotions, our brains release dopamine and endorphins — the “feel good” neurotransmitters responsible for happiness and mood.
Four Principles of Connection
Our EUA team recently took time to grow our connection skills. In July, organizational psychologist Jason Cochran facilitated an interactive session with our team on the Four Principals of Connection. His first question was compelling:
Are you living a well-connected life?
He reinforced that in this crazy world, which often feels like it is constantly changing and shifting, meaningful connections can help us live our best lives – in and out of work. Fun breakout sessions helped reinforce the Four Principles of Connection™️ as essential elements to create healthy employee experiences between people and their work ecosystem - resulting in a sense of purpose and fulfillment in their work. Going one step further, these healthy work connections help prevent burnout.
The four principles include:
- Connection to Self
- Connection to Others
- Connection to Role and
- Connection to Organization
It is a powerfully simple framework for designing and organizing the connections that matter most in our lives. Our team was reminded that we are all wired for connection, even connection to self – perhaps the principal we neglect the most. Michel de Montaigne once said, “The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.”
Best of all, we were given time to nurture connections with others during this session and in the weeks that followed, here were the other activities our team engaged in to put these connection skills to good use for our wellbeing:
Employee Appreciation Week
One meaningful tradition our firm has engaged in for many years is celebrating Employee Appreciation Week (EAW). Appreciation isn’t isolated to one day or week of the year; however, we like to celebrate it deliberately. This year we connected EAW activities to EUA’s five Well-Being essentials:
- Mind + Body
Appreciation and deliberate connection activities were planned throughout the week to encourage connection to self, connection to others, connection to roles, and connection to communities. Team members had fun connecting through various activities such as, sharing healthy meals, enjoying chair messages, engaging in brief fitness activities, sharing Pecha Kucha’s presentations, and participating in financial wellness trivia. While the organization focuses on these activities during the week, EAW is just one of the many ways EUA reinforces our mission to elevate people’s potential and enable the connections and relationship-building required.
The following week team members from Atlanta, Denver, Madison, and Green Bay gathered in Milwaukee, WI – home of our corporate office. Our team came together in-person for the first time since multiple mergers, a global pandemic, and so much more. The theme for the event was “Elevating Connections,” and it was a day dedicated to doing just that. Here are a few examples:
- Connection to Self – strategies for growing self-understanding, for instance, our communication styles and to “stop expecting ourselves in others.”
- Connection to Others – strategies for growing not just performance but also relationship (social) equity. Connection and networking opportunities with peers across geographies and studios on personal and professional topics.
- Connection to Role – purposeful videos and in-person client speakers reinforce the greater purpose in our design work and our impact on the lives of the people we serve.
- Connection to Organization – hearing directly from a family impacted by Camp One Step, an organization that benefits from our firm’s Foundation and Beyond Design Bike Tour fundraising event that kicked-off the next day.
The Role of Space in Connection and Wellbeing
As we reflect on purposeful connection-building and wellbeing, I cannot help but think about the impact space has on all of this. After all, EUA is a design firm. The larger question we can all ask ourselves is, are we designing our personal and professional lives for connection and better wellbeing? In our workplaces, where we spend most of our time, can we- designers, leaders, and co-workers - do a better job designing our spaces, processes, and lives to support human connection? Finally, are we giving the purpose of the organizations we work for and the humans we work with all the tools they need, not just to survive but to thrive?