It's no secret that when employees feel safe, confident, and supported at work, they're more likely to let their best selves shine. But the seemingly endless challenges of 2020 have brought home just how vital it is for employers to ensure that their workers are given what they need to feel comfortable themselves at work. Here's how you can foster an environment of psychological safety - and create space for excellence at work.
1. Make the Professional Personal
Psychologically safe workspaces are ones where workers feel comfortable speaking up, sharing, and contributing. One way to encourage employees to speak their truths and let their entire selves to shine through is to bring the personal into the workplace. With most of us working from home, it's time to do away with the stark divide between work and home lives, and make it the norm to discuss families, hobbies, and identities. Seeing and valuing the whole person creates all-new opportunities for input, discussion, and ideation.
2. Let The Ideas Flow
People are inherently creative. But unless they feel safe at the moment, they're probably going to put their hand up or blurt out a solution or idea. No one wants to feel that they're being judged or criticized, or that their input has no value. Create an environment that welcomes this kind of thought - and even rewards it. Encourage consequence-free brainstorming, thank people for their efforts, and always work from the assumption that they're giving it their all. For employees to perform at their best, they need to be able to speak up, try something new, or take risks without fear of being shamed or admonished.
3. Get Clear About Expectations
It's tough to feel confident at work when you don't know what's expected of you or whether you're doing a good job. Make sure your team members understand the ins and outs of their roles, including responsibilities, reports, and deliverables. Chances are things have changed since we all began working remotely, so it's a good idea to make sure any changes or updates have been communicated. While you're there, provide constructive feedback, support, and cheerleading for the work they've done - the 70% of people who suffer from imposter syndrome will feel a load lifted from their shoulders.
4. Have Your Team's Back
A team that knows that you're supportive of them is much more likely to go out on a limb. Make sure your team knows that you're working together towards a shared goal, and stay positive through setbacks. Taking some of the load or responsibility of team challenges or failures will alleviate pressure on your team members, and reinforce their feelings of psychological safety. This is particularly important with staff working remotely and therefore feeling less a part of the team. Make it a priority to check in on your team members, celebrate wins, and schedule team-building activities. Your team will be all the stronger for it.
5. Acknowledge It's Not Always Easy
Work can be tough, especially when combined with everything else your employees have going on in their personal lives. In 2020 these challenges have been dramatically amplified. There's economic and health-related uncertainty, the difficulty of working from home with kids, and the endlessly negative news cycle that fills our feeds. Let your employees know that you don't expect them to be unemotional superhumans, and if they're struggling with work or personal issues, find a way to accommodate them, such as with flexible hours, or guide them towards appropriate resources.
Life - and work - as we know, it has changed tremendously in the past few months. Now, more than ever, it's vital to create a workplace that values psychological safety so that your employees are given the space, resources, and support they need to excel.