How important is psychological safety in the workplace?

Research shows poor wellbeing is costing UK firms a staggering £56bn a year.

Psychological safety, referring to the feeling and belief that you can share your thoughts, opinions and ideas within a company, is critical to the success of an organisation. This has been evidenced in research from Google’s Project Aristotle which identified psychological safety as the single most important factor for effective teams.

Amid worldwide concerns about a lack of equity, diversity and accessibility, alongside decreasing levels of retention and productivity and increasing amounts of burnout amongst workers, committing to creating psychologically safe workplaces is the best way to optimise employees and teams. Research from Mind also shows that poor mental health is costing UK businesses a staggering £56bn a year, highlighting the vital importance of creating the best possible working environment for employees. 

Coaching platform BetterUp found that company cultures with a high sense of belonging have seen a 56% increase in productivity and a 50% reduction in the risk of employee turnover. In addition to this, new research from Rethinkly – a virtual world platform that helps resolve communication and well-being challenges – reveals that just under one in five UK workers (18%) worry that their employees will judge them for making a mistake, and consequently, 23% of workers say that due to living with mental health issues, they feel that their productivity at work is 50% or less of what it could be. This encapsulates another element of psychological safety – being able to spot when an employee’s threat response is being triggered and nurture an environment where these responses are soothed.

Key findings:

  1. 35% of the British workforce say they are unable to fulfil any kind of public delivery – presentations, client meetings, etc. – without acute anxiety
  2. 11% have a toxic relationship with peers and managers at work 
  3. 26% harbour all workplace tension and find confrontation too difficult 
  4. 15% have taken time off work due to feeling so challenged in communication 
  5. 28% say that the inability to communicate within the workplace has had the largest impact on productivity 
  6. 23% of workers say that due to living with mental health issues, they feel that their productivity at work is 50% or less of what it could be

In order to be implemented effectively, psychological safety needs to be fostered by employees at all levels within an organisation. Team cultures reflect the actions and reactions of their leaders, and to establish and maintain a psychologically safe workplace leaders must consistently model inclusive behaviours in order to build new team norms over time. This also extends to identifying when an employee’s threat responses are triggered, and how to properly deal with them.

Feelings of being threatened could come from mishandled feedback, being intimidated by people on your team or having your status or autonomy jeopardised. As proprietary research from Rethinkly unveiled that 11% of the British workforce have a toxic relationship with their peers and managers and 15% have taken time off work due to feeling so challenged in communication – it comes as no surprise that investing in a psychologically safe space creates a substantial return for corporations of all sizes. 

At a time when absenteeism due to poor mental health is rife and productivity is at its lowest, the founders of Rethinkly, the metaverse software that allows users to recreate uncomfortable scenarios in a virtual safe space – allow employees at all levels to create and foster psychological safety in their workplace. Used widely within the NHS and by corporate firms such as IBM, Rethinkly’s software removes all real-world references to create a safe space that is designed to inspire autonomy of expression

Original Article: HRnews

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