Peer Support: An Employer’s Solution for Employee Stress
Over the years, my conversations with corporate leaders, managers, and anyone who leads people often ends with a similar conclusion, “Dr. Jada, we have the same mental health challenges as our employees!” And herein lies an interesting dichotomy for many employers who are tasked with leading their teams while silently managing their own personal workplace stressors. Of course, this leads us to an interesting thought-provoking question, “What non-clinical options are available for both employers and employees wanting to address everyday non-clinical stressors?” I believe the answer is simple and potentially life changing. The answer is peer support methods which offer preventative and complementary options for managing life pressures and workplace stress.
Peer support is a method by which individuals with shared human experiences connect and bond through mutual understanding. Within the construct of peer support, a peer is defined as one who shares a specific life experience, phase of life, or life transition. Support refers to the necessity of compassion, empathy, and consideration exchanged between individuals who share those common experiences. Peer support within the context of behavioral healthcare suggests that support, as a complementary or preventative approach, offers assistance for those who need non-clinical services. Because relationships are an important factor in our personal and professional lives, peer support offers a unique opportunity to connect through shared human experiences. “While there are many different types of peer support, they all model recovery, share knowledge, and relate in ways that have made this evidence-based practice a rapidly growing field”  This growing field offers complementary behavioral healthcare options for traditional methods of mental health treatments offered through most benefit plans.
As a licensed mental health counselor, I’ve noticed the immediate benefit of educating clients on the importance of embracing personal awareness by connecting with peers who’ve experienced the same emotional or mental challenges. There is a positive biochemical reaction in the brain during the simple action of sharing frustrations with someone who’s experienced the same life stressor. This is the power of peer support.
“Sometimes referred to as self-help or mutual aid, peer support has been used by people dealing with different types of social circumstances, emotional challenges, and health issues, including those with alcohol or drug problems, bereaved individuals, and people living with physical illnesses or impairments (Penney, Mead, & Prescott, 2008).” At Listeners On Call, we believe in the power of connected listening through shared human experiences. As I continue to explore new ways of supporting the employer-employee relationship, I am encouraged by research data that suggests sixty-seven percent of employees have sought support outside of their immediate circle, which means having someone to talk to during stressful moments is a valuable resource.
After speaking with a group of attorneys about best practices for managing employee stress and burnout, I asked which services were previously implemented to support workplace stress. The responses varied according to department. The stressors observed in the finance department were very different from the stressors seen in the IT department. Attorneys that worked longer hours appeared to have higher stress levels related to interpersonal conflict, while the administrative team reported having intense personal and money stressors. Despite the reported levels of stress, we can certainly surmise that stress is stress; and a quick, accessible method to minimize stress can potentially offer employers a reliable resource to support their employees when needed most. This on-demand service is Listeners On Call.
Peer support services are a reliable benefit that help prevent illness, manage chronic illnesses, cope with stress or emotional and psychological challenges, engage those who are poorly reached by health care systems and interventions, and reduce unnecessary care such as multiple hospital admissions for the same challenge. Peer support research continues to thrive as healthcare professionals find increased potential in services that minimize personal and professional stress.
You can learn more about the impact of peer support and how employers are supporting their employees are engaging with peers through the Listeners On Call service, click the link below to read our white paper.
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1. What is a peer? https://www.mhanational.org/what-peer
Mental Health America. Accessed June 10 2022
2. Defining peer support. https://www.ahpnet.com/AHPNet/media/AHPNetMediaLibrary/White%20Papers/DPenney_Defining_peer_support_2018_Final.pdf. Accessed August 24, 2022.
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