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Social Media and Healthy Relations

Originally posted by United Benefit Advisors (UBA)

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you know that social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.) is commonplace in today’s workplace culture. These so-called “wired employees” use cutting-edge technology as tools to help them do more while staying connected to their friends, family, and coworkers.

A great way for employers to leverage that connectivity with social media is to encourage these wired employees to better manage their health and well-being through healthy activities and harmonious integration of what they’re already doing with social media on a daily basis. Virtual trainers and mobile apps that track diet and exercise are a great way to not only get started, but maintain a healthy lifestyle.

In an article in Employee Benefit News, according to the National Institutes of Health, users who have a weight-loss coach are 214% more likely to lose weight than those without. However, when you consider the cost of a personal trainer, this is often out of reach for the employee and is not financially reasonable for the employer to fund for its workforce.

Rather than using a traditional trainer, an alternative someone could use would be a website specifically geared toward diet, exercise, and health coaching. Another solution would be to use a mobile app that tracks progress and integrates that with the user’s social media of choice. For example, if a person just ran five miles, then that would be posted to their Facebook account. Their friends would see this and send congratulations and encouragement to run farther. It may even motivate their social media contacts to take up running themselves or to join their friend and exercise together toward a common goal.

Often, it’s this tiny nudge that enables people to change their life for the better. While some people may feel they’re healthy enough, or they don’t want to change, there are others who wish they could change their lives, but don’t know where to start. For these people, the social media interaction is perfect and employers can provide examples of websites, apps, and other online tools to get them started on the path to living healthier.

It’s this social support aspect that is so enticing and effective. The outdated axiom of joining business colleagues at a bar after work is being replaced with joining them at the gym or nearby running/biking trail. A person’s social media contacts further provide support by sharing links to healthy recipes, tips on ways to get the most out of exercising, challenging them to participate in a local competition, or posting the schedule of the latest yoga class. This type of interaction keeps people focused on their goal(s) and makes their new healthy lifestyle a two-way street as they can do the same for their friends and colleagues who are just getting started.

Best of all is that it doesn’t appear as though the employee is being pushed by their employer to live a healthier lifestyle. Once the nudge is provided via social media tools, the employee’s own contacts take over the interaction and the employee becomes proactive in his or her approach to improving their own health. This way, everything is friendly, fun, not overly medical, and overall achievable and sustainable.