Applying Social Network Theory to the Workplace

By Susan J. Wells Oct 1, 2010
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As the role of social networks in workplace health evolves, its potential is currently under the microscope at wellness research organizations and providers.

At Healthways Inc., for example, the concept is being analyzed as a way to help employees address and confront their own health risks and to encourage others to join in, says Emily Cook, director of corporate development at the Nashville, Tenn.-based health and well-being research and consulting company.

“We are heavily investing in the concept of social networks,” she says. “People helping people has an incredible power of its own, so we think there’s a real advantage in these connections for real, sustainable health change.”

For example, as the science behind the idea is deployed, it’s feasible that an employer could map out its own social network—a type of “connected aerial view,” Cook says.

Such an exercise could help spawn many initiatives. One might be the development of a wellness council of committed employees that may speed growth of wellness activities and employees’ health improvement.

The author, a contributing editor of HR Magazine, is a business journalist based in the Washington, D.C., area.

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