How to establish a support network in the workplace

It’s no surprise that happy employees produce better work. They also have a more positive attitude towards their work and the organisation that employs them.

Employers who take steps towards taking care of their employees’ mental and physical wellbeing at work are simultaneously building a culture that can help to keep staff turnover rate low. This can, in turn, improve workplace stability, which is an integral factor for employee wellbeing.

Workplace stability leads to consistency in the quality and quantity of your organisations output, your ability to plan ahead and your own peace of mind as an employer.

Mental health in the workplace and the overall happiness of workers is dependent on a number of factors, one being the availability of a support network.

A strong support network can be critical for helping employees get through stressful or tough times, whether in their professional or personal lives. Social and professional support networks combat social isolation and loneliness, some of the causes associated with greater risk of poor mental and cardiovascular health.

Here are some of the ways you can establish and encourage peer support at work and social support networks outside of work.

Ways you can establish a support network for your employees

Encourage positive relationships

Encouraging positive relationships and open communication inside and outside of work is a reliable method for helping staff feel secure and involved in their environment.

Staff who feel they can speak openly with one another cultivate the ability to express ideas and feelings, thus giving others the opportunity to understand them better.

Peer counselling

Make time for peers to meet and share knowledge, experience, emotional, social or practical help with one another.

Peer support is different from other types of professional support in that the relationship of colleagues meeting in this context is one of equality.

A peer is in a position to offer support by virtue of having been in the position of the person seeking support. Sharing a similar work culture and having been through similar life experiences provides the basis for this network.

Introduce an EAP or Employee Assistance Program to the workplace

This is a confidential workplace service that helps employees deal with work-life stressors, family issues, financial concerns, relationship problems and even drug or legal concerns.

Some workplace EAPs provide 24 hour assistance by real people who listen carefully before giving structured, actionable advice.

Telephone and face to face counselling is another service provided by some Employee Assistance Programs that can help ensure your employees feel secure and stay supported when you don’t have enough hours in the week.

Once your employees’ support networks are in place, there are ways you can advise they be maintained.

Like all relationships, support networks must be maintained. Highlighting the importance of keeping connections between staff strong is as important as encouraging them in the first place. Here are some of the ways your staff can maintain their relationships.

The foundation of social support networks

Stay in touch – Answering phone calls, returning emails and reciprocating invitations let people know you care.

Don’t compete – Be happy for your peers and employees when they succeed and enjoy the feeling when they’re happy for you.

Be a good listener – Find out what’s important to your peers and employees by listening to them.

Don’t overdo it – Don’t overwhelm your network with phone calls and emails. Save those valuable times asking for advice for when you really need them.