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How team members can support one another’s well-being at work

Sarah-Jane Dale

for World Mental Health Day – 10 October 2019

Sarah-Jane Dale on the strong and positive relationship between social support at work and job-related mental health


‘Be kind to one another,’ says the Dalai Lama. No less should this apply in the world of work than anywhere else.

We know from research how good team working is associated with lower levels of errors, stress, injury, sickness absence, intention to quit and turnover, harassment and bullying from colleagues, and harassment and bullying from service users.1

Last week a colleague described how her daughter’s team leader, in only her second week of work, failed to greet any of his team members in the morning as they arrived for work.

A simple ‘good morning’ is not just a basic rule of politeness but a small contribution to a sense of belonging and community within the workplace.

Teams play an important role in enabling people to cope with everyday work challenges and in providing the social and emotional support that contributes to the quality of each of our lives, both at work and more generally.

Creating the right team climate

Here are some pointers on how to create a favourable social climate at work and make a positive impact upon the mental health and job satisfaction of individual team members:

  • Encourage a sense of belonging and community within the workplace through positive, enthusiastic optimism
  • Consciously express gratitude. Saying thank you has a ripple effect
  • Provide warm expressions of welcome when new members join your team
  • Be an active, open listener – listen with fascination
  • Ensure stability of team membership and resolve conflicts early
  • As a team leader give attention and support to all team members and not just those you feel personally compatible with
  • Encourage those who work in multiple teams or short-lived project teams to have a ‘home team’ whey they spend more time, get more social support and discuss their learning needs
  • Recognise your limitations in providing emotional support and recommend professional help where needed
  • Support team members with information and practical assistance, and help them to appraise problem situations
  • Provide opportunities for learning, growth and development
  • Enrich roles by considering skill variety, autonomy, feedback loops and other core job characteristics
  • Enable and support each other in finding a balance between home and work life
  • Pay attention to how team members are showing up – is their behaviour different for a reason
  • Take the time to show interest and concern about the lives of others in the team
  • Develop a relaxed, enjoyable atmosphere

This article is adapted from the book Effective Teamwork by kind permission of Professor Michael West – see Chapter 10 – Team Support


1 Staff satisfaction and organisational performance: evidence from a longitudinal secondary analysis of the NHS staff survey and outcome data http://www.journalslibrary.nihr.ac.uk/hsdr/volume-2/issue-50#abstract and Well-structured teams and the buffering of hospital employees from stress Buttigieg, S. C., West, M. & Dawson, J. F. 11/2011 In : Health Services Management Research. 24, 4, p. 203-212 9 p. and The NHS National Staff Survey – http://www.dh.gov.uk/health/2011/08/nhs-staff-management/www.nhsstaffsurveys.com and Culture and Behaviour in the English National Health Service: overview of lessons from a large multimethod study. Dixon-Wood, M., Baker, R., Charles, K., Dawson, J., Jerzembek, G., Martin, G., McCarthy, I., McKee, L., Minion, J., Ozieranski, P., Willars, J., Wilkie, P., West, M. British Medical Journal Sept 2013

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