There has never been a more crucial time to ensure psychological safety in the workplace. With the pandemic raging on well and truly into 2021, people are feeling stressed, burnt out, and tired of all the new challenges they are facing. If there is to be any chance of your staff focusing on getting the job done, you need to transform the working environment into a safe haven for them.
What is Psychological Safety?
Psychological safety refers to the feeling of being able to share opinions, speak, and work without the fear of ridicule or punishment. It is the shared belief held by the members of your organization that the workplace is somewhere that you can be yourself without fear of backlash.
In a psychologically safe workplace, people feel comfortable asking questions, sharing new ideas, and aren’t afraid to make mistakes. They know that they will not be embarrassed or ridiculed for getting something wrong or coming up with suggestions.
Why is Psychological Safety Important in the Workplace?
Psychological safety is a basic requirement in any workplace, as staff deserve to feel comfortable in the place where they spend such a lot of their time. When there is no psychological safety, job satisfaction and morale in the workplace are often significantly reduced. If people are afraid to speak up or even share their opinions, it would be difficult to feel happy at work.
Without psychological safety, innovation and creativity can also decrease. That’s because if people aren’t sharing new ideas or discussing new ways of doing things for fear of recrimination, this makes it difficult to get new concepts off the ground.
Psychological safety becomes even more essential when there is uncertainty, such as during the current pandemic. Covid-19 has changed the way that we do things, from not leaving our houses, to remote working, to wearing a mask when out and about. This has caused a tremendous amount of uncertainty, and so many people are already on edge because of everything the world has been going through for the past year. If your staff can’t be psychologically safe at work now, your people are at risk of breakdown.
During this time, even minor stressors can seriously affect people. They are already at their peak tolerance for change, disaster, and stress. So, just one more thing can cause someone to snap at a coworker, miss a deadline, or drop the ball on a project. If you don’t think you have psychological safety in your workplace, it’s time to do something about it.
How to Ensure Psychological Safety at Work During the Pandemic
There are some concrete steps that you can take to help your employees feel more comfortable in the workplace, even during the pandemic. Try out some of the following:
Create A Better Workplace Culture
The workplace culture is one of the main determiners of psychological safety in the workplace. Intentionally building a culture that aims to battle unconscious bias and supports staff is critical. While a workplace may be psychologically safe for some, for minorities, it is often not.
Business leaders need to step up and create an environment where every single staff member feels respected, accepted, and that their contributions are valued as much as anyone else’s.
Working during a pandemic is entirely different from working at any other time. It’s vital that you let your employees know that you understand this and that it’s okay to be unsure, to fail, to speak up. It could be a good idea to give them extra time to complete their work, as productivity can be tough to maintain with the current Covid-19 crisis that we are in. It will help if, during this time, you can be direct as possible so that your staff are never unsure where you stand or what’s expected of them.
People need to hear that they are valued. This is true at any time, but particularly during the pandemic. People are working differently, starting new projects, using new technology. It is crucial right now that you express your gratitude for their resilience and willingness to cope with change. Recognize the constructive behaviors you notice and reinforce them with positive feedback. This is a simple technique that can make all the difference to someone’s day.
Make sure that you are as specific as possible when expressing appreciation. Rather than a simple ‘thanks for a job well done’, try to mention what exactly they did that was so great. ‘You were able to adapt and change the work according to the client’s evolving expectations, and you did great at rolling with it’, for example, could mean so much more to your employee.
Now, more than ever, the ‘why’ behind what we do matters. Communicate why we are doing what we do and why it matters. As a leader, you will need to get people on board with the organization’s current mission despite everything going on in the world around you. Being able to communicate your vision and bring your team on board will go a long way towards fostering a community spirit and maintaining productivity, even in difficult times.
Have you ever asked your staff ‘is this working?’ or ‘how could we do this differently?’. If your answer is no, then it’s high time that you started. Sometimes people don’t speak up on their own, even if you believe that your organization offers psychological safety to all. Some people will only feel comfortable speaking up if you ask for their opinion – so ask. Make sure that you thank people for sharing their views and actually take their ideas into consideration and act on the good ones. This shows that you truly value the input.
Psychological safety in the workplace is important, no matter what’s happening in the world. It may be harder to achieve right now while everyone is stressed and on edge, but it is worth the effort. If you choose to create a culture of psychological safety, your employees will appreciate it, and you’re likely to see a return on that emotional investment in terms of morale, productivity, and resilience.