Peer support vs manager support and why you need both

When it comes to mental health at work, there are different ways that employees can get support.

Manager support is accessed when employees go to managers for support. Managerial support can involve many of the same elements of peer support, but it can also be taken in a more official direction, with care plans or additional means of support being implemented at a company-level.

Peer support is accessed when employees offer support to one another at work. If an employee is able to talk to colleagues who have a similar experience or understanding, this can be an effective way for those employees to positively impact their wellbeing and mental health. It usually involves empathy, compassion, and sharing between two members on roughly the same level.

Benefits of Peer Support at work

Lived experience is shared and normalised

Peer support works because it’s authentic. Speaking to people who have experienced stress, burnout, anxiety, or depression can often be more helpful than speaking to someone in an authority position who may not have had a similar experience.

Peer support specialists often receive training to better help those who need support. Peers have been shown to reduce depression, substance misuse, and hospitalisation. They also improve social functioning and empower people to take better care of their mental health.

Peers can share their own stories, as well as techniques or coping mechanisms that worked for them, which helps to normalise experiences, not only for those seeking support, but for everyone else around the organisation as well. This is just one way that peer support can begin to change company culture, having a marked impact on how staff feel day to day.

Increased employee resilience

When employees know they’re supported, and can speak to people who know exactly what they’re going through, they’re more able to handle small issues at work. They don’t build up pressure in the same way, as the option of peer support is always there.

Over time, this helps lower staff turnover, as the workplace has become a more supportive place.

Improved relationships between employees

One of the biggest benefits of peer support is that it improves the relationships between employees who help each other.

There’s a certain level of vulnerability inherent in speaking about issues with someone else, more so when you perhaps don’t know them well outside of work. But when this happens, it’s a natural human reaction to want to help the other person. This fosters closeness and trust, two of the most vital elements in building bridges between people.

Benefits of Manager Support at work

Allows for immediate assistance

Where peer support can help on an emotional level, manager support can have the benefit of being practically focused, employees can request flexi-time for additional support outside of work, or compassionate leave if they need time off.

Strengthens trust between managers and team members

On a personal level, manager support is a great way to build trust between different levels of the business. Some managers and their team members may interact in a strictly professional basis, but manager support allows a more personal connection.

It can lead to organisational change

One of the biggest benefits of manager support is that it can speed up more widespread change in the organisation. If a manager knows that certain practices or policies are having a negative impact on their team, they can challenge them with decision makers, and replace them with better ones that help their team.

Clearly, there are different benefits of manager support and peer support at work. Neither is enough by itself, businesses that encourage a culture of support at all levels are more likely to see the wellbeing of their staff flourish.  

Read more about the importance of cultivating psychological safety at work, or learn about how loneliness at work impacts staff mental health.

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Posted on: 29th July 2022