Fostering psychological safety has been a common part of the recent discussion about what businesses and employees can do to adjust and triumph in a post-pandemic world.
Psychological safety is the perception of being physically and psychologically protected from negative events in the workplace. To quote Dr Amy Edmonson, an academic often cited as a pioneer on this topic:
“Psychological safety is broadly defined as a climate in which people are comfortable expressing and being themselves. More specifically when people have psychologically safety at work, they feel comfortable sharing concerns or mistakes without fear of embarrassment or retribution.”
Actively fostering this sense of safety is especially important for remote teams because they are usually geographically distant from each other and therefore have fewer opportunities to naturally build trust with one another.
With more organisations continuing to employ remote and hybrid work methods, providing a psychologically safe atmosphere is becoming increasingly important as a means to assist workers to deal with work-life difficulties, enhance team dynamics, improve retention and support diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Spouting to your team that open communication is critical to team success means very little unless you’re willing to do it yourself. One of the quickest ways to create an environment in which people feel safe sharing their mistakes or difficulties is by following the example set by leaders. Openly acknowledging your team’s challenges and your own personal ones can help create a sense of understanding and trust.
Listen with intent
Listen with an open mind and a desire to learn rather than to judge. Active listening entails concentrating on what team members say and what they leave out. Be alert for nonverbal cues that indicate stress or uncertainty. It’s also important to ask for feedback – more than once. In remote working teams it’s very easy for team members to keep quiet, however being proactive in asking team members to voice their concerns and ideas sends the message that their views are appreciated.
Have dedicated communication channels
When you are physically isolated, it is harder to build trust with coworkers because there are fewer opportunities for casual and formal conversation. It’s important to have a dedicated platform to foster digital communication. While video meetings are an important tool, video fatigue is a notable issue, and having an asynchronous platform for communication helps with accessibility and engagement. Platforms that have dedicated spaces for work and social chat are ideal. The more an organisation feels unified and comfortable interacting on the communication platform, the stronger sense of psychological safety will occur overall among its employees due to increased communication between teammates.
Remote work is here to stay, and when done right, it can be a great way to build an agile company. But in order for remote teams to succeed, there are three important things you need to do – communicate openly with your team members so they know what’s going on; listen actively so that you understand how people feel about their work environment every day; finally have a dedicated communication channel where everyone can share ideas or ask questions without fear of judgment or reprisal.