Understanding social factors affecting workplace well-being

Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) are nonmedical factors that influence and impact a person’s health throughout the course of their life. Understanding these social factors and how they contribute to employees’ overall quality of life can help employers consider actions to take in support of workforce well-being—which is often tied to greater employee job satisfaction, retention and performance.

A recent report developed by the Gerontological Society of America, with support from Bank of America, outlines the SDOH and explores their impact on financial wellness, health and socialization at different life stages. The following highlights from the report help provide an introduction to SDOH and inspire ideas for how employers can shape benefits and educational programs to support their employees and their families.

The determinants as identified by the World Health Organization are grouped into five categories:

Economic stability
Income and social protection, unemployment and job insecurity, working life conditions

Education access and quality
Education and early childhood development

Health care access and quality
Access to affordable health services of decent quality

Neighborhood and built environment
Food insecurity, housing, basic amenities and the environment

Social and community context
Social inclusion and nondiscrimination, structural conflict

Tips for employers

In consideration of these factors, the report provides examples of what organizations can do to help their employees thrive, including:

  • Provide employees with access to financial guidance, educational resources and tools in the workplace to help them build skills that can help them navigate everyday expenses and plan for the future.
  • Consider adding or enhancing benefits to help employees balance work with the time and financial commitments of parenting or caring for loved ones. This could range from paid time off for caregiving to tuition savings programs.
  • Create healthy work environments by offering fitness opportunities, incentives to encourage physical activity, access to healthy foods and mental health resources.
  • Cultivate a workplace culture that aims to mitigate and manage stress.
  • Help close the financial gender gap by supporting programs that address women’s specific challenges, such as pay disparity, career interruptions due to caregiving, lack of investing knowledge and the physical and emotional effects of menopause.
  • Educate employees on the importance of maintaining friendships during all phases of life, especially in retirement, and consider programs that promote social connections in and outside the workplace.
  • Consider supporting programs that assist lower-income families in the community, such as the United Way’s ALICE (asset limited, income constrained, employed) program.

To learn more about SDOH and explore additional tips for employers, download the full report.