In your personal life, you probably have people you turn to when things get rough, or when you need a little guidance about which direction to take. While it may not be quite as cut-and-dried, your workplace might also provide this type of help, often called "social support." A good workplace should provide at least a few opportunities for social support, through either formal or informal channels.
Perhaps the most formal form of social support on the job is the employee assistance program. These programs offer support for workers coping with divorce, domestic violence, death, depression or myriad other personal issues. Often, the programs provide several free sessions with a counselor or a medical professional. When workers' issues are serious and quite personal, this provides the employer a way to support the worker without having to discuss the details in the work setting.
Employees need a lot of support when they first start a new job. It's a time when they don't know the procedures or the players, and a time when the lack of social support may be felt most. A positive way to support workers during this time of transition is to offer an apprenticeship or "buddy" program that matches new workers with seasoned workers, providing them support and a direction for all the little questions that come up. If your company implements this program, be sure the "seasoned" worker gets some training in best practices for training new workers.
When you work in a stressful environment, you're likely not the only one to experience feelings of stress and anxiety. Employers who recognize this can help by organizing group activities that work to reduce workers' stress levels and create a sense of camaraderie. Examples include a lunchtime yoga, meditation or fitness class offered on site, paid for by the employer. Employers can also offer opportunities for workers to form their own groups; possibilities could include Alcoholics Anonymous or Toastmasters.
Offering workers a forum for sounding off about the stresses of work is another way in which employers can offer social support. Activities such as a monthly happy hour after work, a quarterly picnic on-site or a weekly potluck offer workers a forum for interacting in a more social setting than they may otherwise do while sitting at their desks. Likewise, activities such as a company softball game or a crafts activity -- offered on-site during work hours -- can help to show workers that the company is invested in their well-being. Any of these activities can help workers form alliances with other workers and foster the friendships that can provide support when workers need it.
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