WHAT: Psychological safety is a very important concept in any workplace. It describes feeling safe enough to express one true image, thoughts or ideas without fear of negative repercussions on career, status or self-imagine. It is especially important in collaborative settings: teams feel safe for interpersonal risk-taking, with members feeling respected and valuable. In a remote workplace, extra effort needs to be placed to ensure this safety still exists: especially with the blurred boundaries between work and personal life, and managerial decisions therefore having a direct impact on personal boundaries. Maintaining trust in employees through distance work has been a large issue for traditional management practice, and trust is core to allowing psychological safety.
To ensure psychological safety can be maintained in a remote setting, managers need to attribute time to discussing the challenges of the new working environment, leading the way to overcome these challenges and show their own vulnerabilities. The process will take time and should be set up with small steps, sharing positive examples, and ensuring that seemingly passive comments like “we’d like to see more of you” or “we could really use you” are avoided, in the case that they may make teammates feel they are letting the company down.
SO WHAT: Having psychologically safe discussions around work-life balance issues is challenging because these topics are more likely to touch on deep-seated aspects of employees’ identity, values, and choices now that work can be based out of the home. Some employees may choose to prioritise family members, illness-management or even a side passion in this new circumstance. Allowing everybody to be open about their new challenges, as well as valued in their work teams is a difficult challenge but worth the investment, and crucial to ensure a sustainable healthy work environment, as well as boosting creativity and positive reinforcement within teams.