Fostering an environment where employees feel comfortable performing to the best of their abilities is one of the easiest ways to create a diverse culture that embraces innovation. Major companies know this, and they are taking active steps to ensure that their employees feel comfortable at home – and at work. Psychological safety is one of the very crucial elements when creating an environment that supports employee mental health. Let’s demystify the business-related mental health pandemic and explore what you can do.
What is the Mental Health Pandemic?
Our mental health varies in response to our personal backgrounds, environments, and the people around us. Since full-time employees spend roughly 40 hours at work a week, this environment can heavily influence mental health. When a high number of employees are unhappy at work, we are at risk of a mental health pandemic.
Every single employee has different needs, and when those needs are not met, work can drain their mental health. Employees that do not feel heard or do not feel safe sharing ideas in their environment can face a variety of mental health problems, including low self-esteem, performance anxiety, and a lack of fulfillment in their daily lives.
Psychological Safety: An Overview
Understanding psychological safety means letting go of the preconceived notions regarding what the workplace environment means and allowing employees at all levels to thrive. It is the belief that the workplace is a free and safe environment – and that a person can speak up and share their ideas without fear of criticism or retaliation.
The Importance of Psychological Safety
Creating an environment where psychological safety can make all the difference means opening yourself up to new ideas. It also means creating a space where mental health is not compromised by the intensity of an environment. Companies that create a sense of psychological safety can not only improve the mental health of their employees, allowing more employees to feel happy and confident at work but as a by-product are also more eager to innovate and change.
Enhancing Team Dynamics
When a team is psychologically safe, they are more open to collaboration. A person who feels that they can freely express their opinion will be more capable of sharing their beliefs and knowledge with a team. More importantly, they can encourage teams to interact with honesty and consider new options. This ultimately creates teams that thrive and foster a sense of community, which is beneficial for mental health as research in the field of health suggests that Healthy Relationships are essential to human well-being.
Agile Doesn’t Work Without Psychological Safety
Agile methods of work can yield incredible results, but that isn’t the case when the environment doesn’t meet key needs. For years, Google studied effective teams and found that psychological safety provides the biggest impact when ensuring that teams can come together, collaborate, and solve problems. This trust and support can create an environment where practices and principles come together to build trust in your team.
Ways to Build a Sense of Psychological Safety for Your Team
Creating a sense of psychological safety means ensuring that everyone is on the same page, but it also means exploring the ways that different people can work together. Establishing psychological safety means recognizing what everyone can bring to the table and accepting them for who they are and what they bring. Above all else, it means having leaders that promote psychological safety above all else. This added support can help team members to feel confident in every decision that they make when it is for the benefit of the team.
Always Support Your Team
There are a lot of ways to win people over, but nothing is more effective than support. When you clearly demonstrate that you intend to help someone, you show that they can trust you. Being a supportive person builds trusts, and your actions can help you to establish a bond with people when you need to.
Encourage Feedback and Input
Every team is composed of different people who have ideas for innovation and an abundance of creativity. It is the job of their leader to ensure that the environment feels safe enough for employees to speak out. Encouraging employees to share their opinions is necessary to meet most company goals and can actively drive innovation in the workplace.
Strive to Better Understand Your Team
Before you can establish psychological safety, you must be willing to listen to the people that you work with. It means recognizing their strengths and weaknesses, but it also means listening to and absorbing key beliefs to ensure that you have a solid understanding regarding who they are and what their beliefs are. Knowing this can empower you to hear their needs and establish new connections.
See Every Situation from Their Point of View
Connecting with a team should always be the first goal whether you are a manager or a peer, and relating to them is the key. When you demonstrate that you can hear them out and empathize, you will highlight the fact that you do care about what everyone is bringing to the table. When you can see a situation from someone else’s perspective, you are more likely to understand them and make decisions that involve everyone—even if you aren’t sure about what they are bringing to the table.
Offer Feedback, Not Criticism
Feedback encourages each of us to be better, but that is only true if it is delivered correctly. Instead of criticizing an employee’s actions, offer them clear and insightful feedback that directly addresses areas where they can improve. Remember to highlight the positive and keep the focus on future growth.
Give Your Opinion—Even When It’s Hard
When it comes to setting comfort levels, a lot of us default to being more agreeable, but this isn’t always the best solution. A person who constantly agrees clearly demonstrates that they are not likely to give an honest opinion. While most of us would consider disagreeing to be a decision that would undermine what we can offer, this really isn’t true.
The reality is that honesty rises above all else, even when our opinions differ from someone else’s. Telling someone that you agree when you aren’t certain and don’t know if it will really work out can fall short. However, offering a clear “no” instead of dancing around a topic can help them to trust that you will be honest when it matters.
Show Them What Success Looks Like
Words are all well and good, but they don’t mean anything if you don’t live up to them. Setting the standard for success means speaking up on a situation and demonstrating actions that meet this need. When you can demonstrate your capabilities, you will find that people are more willing to follow your example. Through actions, you can teach your team how to achieve success.
With each passing day, more companies are recognizing that they need to connect with their employees. Forming an environment that is focused on prioritizing psychological safety can help you to ensure that your employees feel mentally supported at work. The next million-dollar idea might belong to an employee from your company, but if their mental health isn’t supported, you might never get to hear it. Every leader would be well advised to work towards creating conditions that allow every employee to be fully human again in the workplace, as it is precisely this human being that makes the success of a company possible.