How have you created social support at work? What things were attempted but backfired?
Examples of things that worked:
“One thing was part of a training we got on diversity and inclusion. As a warm-up sort of opening-up thing, with the whole company in one room, the presenter did a “stand up if...” For a whole bunch of things. You were allowed to just sit the whole time if you didn’t want to share, but it was a large group and all of the things were fairly common experiences, that got increasingly taboo. Started out light like, stand up if you have a pet, and got heavier, like, stand up if you’ve lost a loved one to suicide. And SUDDENLY everyone was a WHOLE PERSON who has loved ones and pain and has been through some shit, and lots of them have been through some of the same shit as you. That said, this workshop happened at a company that was already pretty great about social bonds, and I feel like a lot more people might opt out if my current company tried it....”
“I worked with there was a critical mass of musicians, and a coworker booked some time for us in a music studio to jam together. We had a wide range of musical abilities, but generally were able to play together and have a really good time. It really brought me closer to my coworkers, especially the one who organized it.”
Letting a large but racist donor walk away.
Group lunches for identity or interest groups.
A liberal attitude towards employee usage of conference rooms in off hours, e.g. for D+D games.
Explicit channels for compliments towards peers.
Examples of things that backfired:
Branded clothing not available in your size or cut (most commonly, a lack of women’s shirts at tech companies)
Scheduling parties outside of working hours.
Almost anything from the above list, if you experience it as invasive rather than supportive.
(I originally posted this comment in a subthread that got deleted)
At the EA Hotel we eat dinner together as a house every evening. Sometimes we play board games after. I think this has worked really well for providing social support/‘regularly being together’, and I highly recommend experimenting with shared meals if you live in a group house/work at the same organization and don’t already do it. The key prerequisites are: a system for figuring out who’s cooking, and a way to notify everyone when the food is ready (we ring a bell and put a message in the house Facebook chat).
Elizabeth responded with:
“The following is presented as an example of how organizing social support is hard, not that this is a bad idea: I find shared meals really stressful, and I know other people do as well. The fact that the default bonding activity is shared meals seems really bad to me. Between eating disorders, medical food restrictions, and simple preferences, just choosing a restaurant or menu can be really fraught.”
+1 for “liberal attitude towards employee usage of conference rooms”; Epic does this, and it’s excellent.
Another good practice from Epic: They have a system for registering one’s expertise—“I’m really good at Visual Basic, call me if you have an issue”—which they allow employees to use for non-work interests. That’s how I found Epic’s Magic: the Gathering club, and how I found enough people to start a corporate EA group there (the system gave me an easy way to contact people with a stated interest in psychology or philosophy).
Was the “massive drinking” example from resource you found, or from your own personal experience? I can imagine that practice creating social support, but it also seems to have an especially high risk of feeling “invasive”—for people who don’t drink at all, people who feel pressured to drink too much, people who are trying to cut down on their drinking, etc.
“Massive drinking” was reported by a friend on my FB wall. I agree with you that it’s fraught, but not necessarily more so than the “stand up if this applies to you” game, which one person on FB objected to pretty strongly.
My experience at Wave was that there were things they did that felt supportive and welcoming, that at my previous job would have felt invasive and required an emotional performance. I’m not sure there is a substitute for a healthy workplace.