Employee Benefits / Employee Health

What Google and the International Painters and Allied Trade Union Have in Common

I know it sounds like the set up for a bad joke but the truth is very enduring. They both have visible indicators of colleagues dedicated and trained to be peer support in the workplace. Google has a ”blue dot” sticker that peers support employees placed on their laptop initially. That changed to be a blue dot included in their email signature line as the pandemic limited in person work.

I recently attended the National Labor Assistance Professionals annual conference and had the pleasure of spending some time with many of the different union representatives. These representatives were all  invested in supporting fellow union members with behavioral health challenges. One representative from the Painter and Allied Trade Union gave me a sticker that peer support union members wear on their hard hats while on job site. Peer support union members participate in a training program to become designated peer supporters. They wear the sticker to show that they are trained and willing to be a peer support to any other union members on the job site.


I am struck by the overlap between efforts between tech companies like Google and labor unions. It’s not often you see both sectors innovating simultaneously. I am reminded of a basic truth that everyone should revisit. We are social creatures by design and in need of human connection. As a 20 year plus master level psychotherapist, I’ll let you non clinicians in on a little secret. Therapy would not be as utilized or relevant in today’s world if people were more “connected”. Please allow me to elaborate.

Back in the day, Americans were part of communities often living in the same town they grew up in. There was a community. Today so many Americans move all over the world and rely on technology to “connect with others”. Think about traditional “courting” in past dating relationships. Now we have tinder.  As children we would all go out and play in the neighborhood until the streetlights came on then return home. Now kids spend their time on social media rather than outside. Things were not perfect back then but we did have ways of connecting that no longer are the norm.

I want to give a shout out to tech companies, unions and other sectors that are making efforts to make space for human connection be it in the form of peer programs or just slowing down and having meaningful interactions across companies. Therapy is good, but connection is better!

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