Social Support Networks at Work: Their Significance for Mental Health

Team IIBP Anveshan, Employee Engagement, issue 44, Mental Health, Volume 4

Humans are inherently social beings, and our need for social relationships is rooted in the quest for comfort, connection, and shared experiences. Social support encompasses the solace derived from a network of friends, family, colleagues, and others who stand by you during challenging times, acting as a shield against loneliness.

Cobb (1976) defined social support as an individual’s perception that they are loved, valued, and cared for, and that their welfare is a concern within a social network characterized by mutual obligation.

Social Support Network acts as a safety net, ready to catch us when the hurdles of life seem unbearable. They provide the strength to endure when the temptation to give up arises, offering support reciprocally when others are facing adversity. In essence, social support becomes a dynamic exchange, fostering resilience and collective well-being.

This interconnectedness isn’t limited to our personal lives; it extends to the professional realm as well. Having a strong social support network at work is equally essential as people spend a significant amount of their time at work. The concept of workplace social support can be understood as the degree to which individuals believe that their workplace values their overall well-being, including supervisors and the broader organization, and the perception that these sources will offer assistance to support this well-being (Kossek et al., 2011). Social support at the workplace social support comes from sources like supervisors, co-workers, and the organization as a whole.

Its profound impact on individual and collective well-being makes it more important for us to understand why social support is crucial at the workplace. A positive relationship is observed between social support and job satisfaction in a study by Harris et al. (2007). In a study conducted by Kinman et al. (2011) on teachers in the U.K., increased social support helps in managing the emotional labor required to do a job more effectively and also protects from burnout. They also found that social support weakens the impact of emotional exhaustion. Emotional support provided by supervisors stands out as the most crucial factor among which contributes to boosting communication satisfaction and the overall quality of the relationship between supervisors and subordinates (Jia, et al., 2017).

Having strong social support within the workplace not only proves advantageous for individual employees but also yields positive outcomes for the entire organization. Soltis et al. (2013) found in a study that having a strong social support system within the organization helps in reducing turnover intentions. Social support also has an impact on productivity, commitment, and decreased absence turnover behavior among employees (Rahnfeld, 2012).

After recognizing the significant impact of social support across different aspects of work, it becomes imperative to explore the actions that both individuals and organizations can undertake to enhance it. The first step for building social support at the workplace is to be open and create positive relationships with others. Effective social connections should be characterized by reciprocal appreciation, emphasizing the importance of individuals not only receiving but also offering social support. Expressing one’s need for help, actively seeking assistance, and acknowledging support efforts from others are crucial steps in this process.

Supervisors play a pivotal role in fostering such relationships, encouraging social interaction through initiatives like team-building activities, social events, and group outings. These efforts contribute to creating a sense of belonging and enhancing employee well-being.

The organization’s duty to cultivate socially supportive environments requires establishing structures and practical solutions, which enable employees to effectively and collaboratively work together and facilitate social communication and interaction (Rahnfeld, 2012). Transparent management of information and involving employees in decision-making processes are integral in nurturing a culture of mutual appreciation. Supporting new employees is equally important, and mentorship and coaching programs serve as valuable tools in this regard.

Cobb, S. (1976). Social support as a moderator of life stress. Psychosomatic Medicine, 38(5), 300–314.
Harris, J. I., Winskowski, A. M., & Engdahl, B. (2007). Types of workplace social support in the
prediction of job satisfaction. The Career Development Quarterly, 56(2), 150– 156.
Jia, M., Cheng, J., & Hale, C. L. (2017). Workplace emotion and communication: Supervisor nonverbal
immediacy, employees’ emotion experience, and their communication motives. Management
Communication Quarterly, 31(1), 69-87.
Kinman, G., Wray, S., & Strange, C. (2011). Emotional labour, burnout and job satisfaction in UK
teachers: the role of workplace social support. Educational Psychology, 31(7), 843–856.
Kossek, E. E., Pichler, S., Bodner, T., & Hammer, L. B. (2011). WORKPLACE SOCIAL SUPPORT
Personnel psychology, 64(2), 289–313.
Rahnfeld, M. (2012, September 26). Social Support at Work. OSHwiki. Retrieved January 27, 2024, from
Soltis, S. M., Agneessens, F., Sasovova, Z., & Labianca, G. (2013). A Social Network Perspective on
Turnover Intentions: The Role of Distributive Justice and Social Support. Human Resource
Management, 52(4), 561–584.

About the author