Building a support network when returning to the office

It’s probably time to give our networks a little overhaul and maintenance. During the pandemic, Yale University researchers found that our social networks decreased by an average of 16%. As more companies make plans to open offices and welcome employees back—at least part-time—many daily routines, stressors, and other aspects of our lives will change significantly. Once again.

We all need a little help from time to time. Whether it’s that person who can give us just the right amount of encouragement, or someone who can walk the dog or pick up the kids when we’re late for work, it’s a good idea to think about where you might need support , when the world opens up again – and how to connect with people who can help you when you need it.

Think about your team

The people in your support network can serve different purposes in your life. They usually fall into a few categories, says integrative behavioral health psychiatrist Ronda Mattox, MD. You may have people acting as cheerleaders or coaches. You may have mentors who can advise or guide you. And maybe you have “supporting actors” to help you meet your needs and those of your family.

When you think about the people in your life, think about how they make you feel. Are they reliable and trustworthy? “When you leave her presence, do you feel inspired, encouraged, uplifted? Do you feel understood? Do you feel heard?” she asks. These are the types of relationships that are important to focus on and nurture.

Look for the gaps

It’s not uncommon to have more support in one area than another, says communications expert Rachel DeAlto, author of Relatable: How to connect with anyone, anywhere (even if it scares you). So look for any gaps you may have, especially when thinking about what you may need as your work schedule changes. DeAlto calls those “foot on chest” moments when you suddenly have a crisis, something you need to talk about, or otherwise need help. Who are you going to call?

It’s also important to think about where the gaps will be in the future. Need someone to take care of your pets or run an errand for you while you’re in the office? What people and resources do you have available to help you deal with what you’ve built into your day for the last two years? When you can’t think of someone, “you’re like, ‘Okay, there’s a shortage. There’s a vacancy that needs to be filled,” she says.

Look at your communities

Building your support network requires two things: finding people in your communities and investing in those relationships, says Mattox. You may have different communities: friends, work contacts, family members, neighbors, a faith community, co-parents, etc. Each may provide you with opportunities to find support and also to support others when you need it—sometimes when you don’t even know it that you need it. And communities based on common interests or circumstances may be better placed to offer help when you need it.

Stay flexible

One of the tricky parts of asking your support network for help is just that: asking for help, says leadership expert Julie Bee, founder of Lead from Anywhere. Let’s face it: you can hire someone to help you with many things in your life. With these types of transactional relationships, you can be more demanding about what you expect from the service.

However, if you ask someone for their help as a favor because they have a relationship with you and care about your well-being, you need to be fair and reasonably flexible about the help provided, Bee says. Consider whether it is better to suffer because the help you receive is different than what you would do, or if you accept the help that is offered. “I’ve seen a lot of people who needed help with pain, but then didn’t take the help that was offered because it wasn’t quite what they wanted,” she says.

Ask for help – the right way

When asking for help, be as specific as possible about what you need, Bee says. Prioritize the help you need and be fair with your requests. If you keep coming back to the same person without offering support in return, the relationship can become unbalanced. And don’t just think of the people who can help you with your immediate need. Sometimes asking a mentor or coach for advice on how to deal with and solve a challenging situation can yield more ideas and resources than constantly asking a friend or family member to listen to your problem or help you solve one to help the crisis, she says.

Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, says DeAlto. Remember that your needs are not always obvious to those around you. “Sometimes the people around us don’t provide support because they don’t really understand what we need. Or they’re afraid to step up, or they don’t want to go too far,” she says. When you keep those around you informed of what you need—and also responsive to their needs—you can strengthen your relationships and increase the likelihood that you’ll get the support you need, when you need it . Building a support network when returning to the office


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