Creating a Psychologically Safe Workplace

There is no doubt that the last three years have given the concept of “psychological safety” room to be heard, to be valued and to be explored in organizations. It is even starting to be understood and the importance of a psychologically safe workplace is gaining traction.

Canada is a leader in this arena and is the creator of The National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace (The Standard). The Standard is a set of guidelines, tools, and resources to guide organizations in promoting mental health and preventing psychological harm at work. Just like we focus on providing a physically safe environment for employees, The Standard is the tool that guides employers on how to provide a psychologically safe environment for employees. With mental health claims on the rise, particularly among women and young people, and with mental illness being the leading cause of disability in Canada (preventing nearly 500,000 Canadian from going to work each week), the case for employers to create safe workplaces has never been stronger.

Psych Safety Circle

Having said that, one of the most common phrases heard from employers when the topic of mental health comes up is “I’m not a counsellor so I just don’t go there.” Taking steps to create a psychologically safe workplace is by no means telling employers to become a counsellor to their employees. What it is saying is that the employer has a responsibility to create an environment that ensures that an employee is safe from the things that create an unhealthy environment such as a toxic culture, chronic overwork or stress, or bullying and/or harassment and is setting the stage for the employee mental wellness.

While the work associated with creating a psychologically safe workplace may feel overwhelming, the benefits far outweigh the costs. Here are just a few reasons to adopt The Standard and create the kind of workplace that brings out the best in people through psychological safety:

  1. Increased Productivity.  When people feel safe to contribute, to innovate and to learn, they are adding to the outcomes of the organization.
  • Reduced Conflict. There is nothing more time consuming than conflict, especially unresolved conflict. If we aren’t safe to express our opinions, things fester, and conflict and mis-communication increases which creates distraction in the organization.
  • Higher Retention. People stay when they feel safe, appreciated, aligned with the culture and free to be who they are. This is what a psychologically safe workplace provides employees.
  • Mitigated Risk. Legal action for toxic cultures and psychologically unsafe workplaces is on the rise and the only winners in legal action are the lawyers. Employers who focus on psychologically safe workplaces are mitigating the risk of employees leaving with an ax to grind.
  • Attraction Growth. Word spreads about employers who focus on creating a great place to work and this eases recruitment efforts, particularly in a tight labour market where employers need to compete on more than just compensation.

Beyond the fact that these reasons will all contribute to a positive bottom line for employers, creating a psychologically safe workplace is also just the right thing to do. The efforts and focus it takes will pay off and you as an employer, a leader and a human being will be able to lay your head down at night knowing that you have provided the kind of workplace that positively impacts people’s lives by caring about their mental health.

Your Engaged Assignment: Are you bought into the idea of creating a psychologically safe workplace but don’t know where to begin? That is where we come in! We can work with you to assess your organization and create an action plan for the areas where you want to celebrate and improve.