Encouraging Strong Support Systems in Your Public Safety Agency
Date:Saturday November 7, 2020
Much of our ability to bounce back from difficulty has to do with the level of support we receive from our relationships with friends, family, colleagues, and work leadership. First responders see people at some of the most challenging moments in their lives, and as a result, their support systems need to be even stronger than most.
Here are just a few ways that your agency can encourage strong support systems for your first responder employees:
Encourage Team Collaboration/Camaraderie On and Off the Job: First responders have such unique work experiences compared to the general population that often their best support system is each other. When it is possible to create positive bonding experiences, from training opportunities to team-building exercises, take the time to do so. Optional outside-of-work social time should be encouraged but not required, giving the employees who want to grow their support system a chance to get to know each other more informally. Noticing the level of team cohesion can help you know if more of these opportunities are needed.
Support Mental Health and Work-Life Balance in Your Leadership Style: The messages from your leadership carry a lot of weight in how much value your team places on their mental health and their time spent with family and friends. By consciously encouraging your team to seek resources for mental wellness as well as to take much-needed downtime during days off and PTO, you help them find the space to build their support systems at home.
Create Mentoring Bonds Between Leadership and First Responders: Overt mentoring programs can be a good start for connecting new first responders to those who have climbed the ranks, but also keep an eye out for ways to informally mentor team members on a case-by-case basis in ways that are authentic and based on active listening to their needs. Mentorship fills a different support need than team camaraderie, which tends to be less hierarchical, but both are needed to help your team feel supported.
Resources to Support Your Team’s Support Systems and Relationships:
- Harvard Business Review explored how the role of leadership individuals can majorly impact work-life balance, where support systems and relationships tend to form.
- Want your employees to trust and support each other more? Some of these 99 Totally Serious Ways to Create Great Work Culture might spark an idea that works for your team.
- While UNICEF was focused on how companies could support families during COVID-19, many of the measures in this Good Workplace Practices guide are helpful for giving your employees much-needed space to develop their family connections.