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How To Create Psychological Safety On a Hybrid Team

Friday March 29, 2024

How To Create Psychological Safety On a Hybrid Team

Friday March 29, 2024

Man with grey hair and glasses sitting at his desk and typing on a laptop in a hybrid work environment

There’s an increasing awareness of psychological safety’s importance in the workplace.

Enabling employees to speak up improves employee well-being and can prevent catastrophic mistakes.

Hybrid work adds another dimension to psychological safety. Cultural norms and standards that exist in-office can be difficult to adapt to a virtual workplace.

Here’s an overview of how to incorporate psychological safety into a hybrid workplace.

What Is Psychological Safety?

Psychological safety describes a workplace where employees feel comfortable speaking up and taking interpersonal risks without fear of punishment.

In a psychologically safe environment, employees know there will be no humiliation or punishment for bringing up ideas, concerns, or questions. Mistakes are treated as opportunities to learn new things and progress toward ultimate success.

Studies have demonstrated that team psychological safety is a central driver of team performance.

Establishing a climate of safety and supportiveness has never been easy. Hybrid work will require managers to invest extra effort in rethinking and expanding psychological safety.


How To Create Psychological Safety in a Hybrid Workplace

As Harvard Business Review (HBR) explains, managers have traditionally focused on enabling open conversation concerning work content.

With hybrid work, the boundary between work and life becomes blurred. This means that leaders must consider an employee’s personal—as well as professional—circumstances when making scheduling and coordination decisions.

These personal aspects of the virtual employee experience must be considered and respected.

It’s important to remember that this doesn’t mean demanding personal information, since that would potentially violate employee privacy, and even have legal repercussions.

Instead, leaders must create an environment that makes it safe for employees to exhibit vulnerability and trust employees to make the right decisions.

HBR recommends a five-step approach for leaders:

  1. Set the scene: Bring the team together and encourage everyone to share their thoughts. Discover the challenges the team—as well as individual employees—are facing, and share your challenges and how they impact you.
  2. Lead by example Not everyone will be comfortable openly discussing their challenges. When you open up and explain your constraints and challenges, others will be more likely to do the same.
  3. Take small steps: You don’t have to open up about everything right at the start. Begin with a small disclosure and allow the rest of the team to do the same. This shows team members that sharing is safe for them to do.
  4. Share positive examples: Provide illustrations to help the team feel more comfortable. Assure them of your confidence in the growing transparency and highlight how it’s reflected within the team. Emphasize that this discussion is intended to create the most efficient work arrangement for every team member.
  5. Pay attention: Notice what people are saying and doing that could hurt others. For instance, the comment “We wish we saw more of you” might seem innocent, but might make those who aren’t at the office as often feel as if they’re letting down the others on the team.

By prioritizing and repeating these five steps, you can begin creating a psychologically safe hybrid culture.

Psychological Safety Starts from the Top

Everyone has a role in creating a psychologically safe workplace, but the only way for psychological safety at work to truly become engrained into the culture is through leadership.

Leaders are the catalysts toward changes that create better psychological safety. When employees feel comfortable making suggestions without fear, it can help:

  • Create innovation
  • Build a diverse and inclusive workplace
  • Improve adaptability to change

Modeling and reinforcing the behaviors you desire is the best way to see them flourish among workers.

When leaders set a positive tone through their words and actions, others will follow.

This is especially useful in times of disruption. Research from McKinsey indicates that a positive team climate is one of the most important drivers of team psychological safety. In a positive team climate, team members:

  • Care about their team members’ well-being
  • Value team members’ individual contributions
  • Have a voice in how the team conducts work

According to the same McKinsey study, challenging leadership is another method to create change—provided the climate is positive.

Challenging leaders have employees reexamine how they think about work and how to beat expectations and unlock their potential.

These leaders have been shown to:

  • Help employees seek improvement and learning
  • Feel more empowered during changes
  • Improve employee creativity

A leader’s behavior significantly impacts the overall employee experience. To enhance psychological safety, leaders must set a positive example for their team.

Improve Psychological Safety With Teamraderie

Psychological safety at work is important for all teams, but hybrid groups have unique struggles.

The tips in this article will help you ensure every worker feels safe, improving productivity and innovation.

Our Psychological Safety Team Journey, co-created with Harvard Business School’s Amy Edmondson, is designed to help improve psychological safety on your team through four shared experiences. Click here to learn more about this journey and how it can benefit your team.

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