How to form a workplace support system: Advice and benefits


A strong support system can strengthen teams and individuals, boost productivity and help overcome challenges. We'll show you how to get one off the ground below.

The health and wellbeing of employees matter now more than ever. And since we spend so much time at work, it’s important to have a work environment that lets us grow, develop and feel supported.

There are many ways that employers can support workers. Businesses that invest time and effort to take care of their employees get plenty of benefits in return – from lower staff turnover to improved workplace stability.

Creating a strong support network can help employers support their workers. To help get you started, we’ll take a closer look at the benefits, as well as how you can develop a support system to encourage individuals in their duties.

What are the benefits of workplace support systems?

Greater confidence

When you’ve worked hard on a task or contributed ideas during a meeting, praise is always welcome. Even the smallest positive comments can boost your self-confidence and add value to your work.

Workplaces that praise colleagues for a job well done do wonders when it comes to developing engagement. Workers who know they’re doing a good job are more eager to maintain those high standards in all of their tasks, too.

Improved communication

In supportive and friendly working environments, people are more likely to share their thoughts and feelings with others. They’re also more likely to raise questions when encountering problems, which can have a marked effect on productivity.

Supportive environments can also help employees to cope better with stress when they know emotional support is available. With the right resources and support, employees can reduce the psychological stresses that lead to other issues like burnout and anxiety.

colleagues applauding worker

Higher morale

Team spirit and community in supportive workplaces can be powerful, as it reminds everyone of their shared goal, but also creates a positive and happier mood.

Greater job satisfaction

Valued and supported employees feel more satisfied by their tasks and duties, and come to work happier and feeling more positive about what they do. When workers know they’re skilled at what they do, they’re more likely to remain interested.

When the opposite is true, and employees feel less valued, they’re more likely to withdraw from work. This leads to more sick leave, late arrivals and higher turnover in the long term.

Physical and mental health benefits

Since we’re around our colleagues so often, their support can play a huge part in maintaining our mental wellbeing. Supportive colleagues help to reduce stress, allow us to talk through problems, and keep our emotional state on an even keel.

When we’re in tune with our emotions, it can have a positive effect on our physical health too. According to one study, adults with strong social support are less at risk of developing significant health problems, such as depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index (BMI).

worker reading post-it notes

How to establish a workplace support system

Use the four Ws

When creating a workplace support system, the four Ws can be a big help. Think about the following before making any decisions:

• Who do you want to include in your support system? You may want to go for people who have helped you in the past, who are naturally understanding and empathetic of others, and who understand what you want to achieve.

• What do your employees need help with? Are they struggling with work or specific duties related to their role? Perhaps they’re dealing with something more personal that they might like to talk about?

• Where do they need help? Do you need to meet in person? Or could they be supported remotely through video calls? Do you have a quiet area in the workplace that’s free from distractions?

• When do you need the support system? Depending on the form the support takes, when would you need to jump in? It’s important not to let employee issues spiral if they can’t access their chosen support.

Foster positive relationships

Creating positive relationships allows employees to communicate inside and outside of work, lets them feel secure when at work, and goes a long way to them becoming more involved and less withdrawn from their duties.

More open communication lends itself to the sharing of ideas and feelings, giving everyone a chance to better understand their colleagues, both professionally and personally.

colleagues talking

Peer counselling

Growing in popularity over the years, peer support lets employees help each other in a mutual space within the workplace. These arrangements let employees talk to others who have shared experiences, allowing them to better manage their wellbeing and mental health.

By investing in third-party peer support training, peer counselling lets employees feel comfortable talking with someone they relate to – improving employee resilience and reducing absences.

Introduce an Employee Assistance Programme

Employee Assistance Programmes, or EAP, are employee benefit programmes that many different employers offer right now. By talking to an independent adviser either face to face or over the phone, an EAP can help employees deal with any personal problems they have that may affect their work performance, health and wellbeing.

Hugely beneficial in creating a formal workplace support system, EAPs include assessment, short-term counselling and referral for employees, as well as their immediate family, no matter where they’re based in the world.

Top tips to keep in mind

Your workplace support network takes time to maintain and tend to. Try building a foundation for support and positivity with the following:

• Stay in touch – check in on your colleagues and workers by answering phone calls, returning emails and responding to invitations to show others that you care.

• Don’t compete – when peers and employees succeed, show them you’re happy for them. Likewise, when they’re happy for you, be sure to enjoy the feeling yourself.

• Be a good listener – actively listening to your peers and fully understanding their issues or problems plays a large role in supporting their needs.

• Try not to overdo it – take care not to add to your colleagues’ pile by inundating them with calls and emails. Instead, set aside time with them in advance if you need to talk to them about something.

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