Transforming the Office into a Safe Workplace

Someone sitting at a desk in front of a laptop, clearly stressed to show the importance of having a safe workplace

How do we create a safe workplace? When people go to work, they want to know that they are valued, respected, and will be treated with kindness.

Still, thousands of people go to their place of work every day filled with anxiety. They feel as though their work doesn’t matter or won’t be appreciated no matter how much time they spend on it. They’re afraid of making mistakes and may feel disrespected and lonely whenever they’re at work.

This type of situation usually produces decreased employee engagement and a higher turnover, both of which will hurt the business’s bottom line in the long run.

What if we were able to create a culture shift in our workplaces to ensure that people feel safe? That’s what I want to explore in today’s article. I’ll talk about some of the ways that we can create this safe environment and hold each person accountable for their contributions.

The Characteristics of a Safe Workplace

First, a safe workplace is somewhere an employee feels that their physical safety is not at risk. At no point should they feel concerned about experiencing bodily harm while in or around the office.

The second factor is emotional safety. Do people know that they can speak to their coworkers freely and openly? Do they feel comfortable being themselves? Is everyone held to the same set of guidelines without any individual receiving favoritism?

There are many ways to define safety in the workplace; these are just a few. It may be helpful to have a discussion with your team members about what makes them feel safe and how you can all practice safety around one another.

It’s also worth bringing the idea of safety to the attention of your managers and human resource directors. However, if safety is an issue to the point of not feeling secure speaking to higher ups, it’s time to bring a cultural toxicity coach into the mix.

Building a Safe Workplace

Creating a safe workplace from the ground up requires participation from every single team member. As I previously mentioned, it might be helpful to get a coach involved, since an outside professional can also act as an unbiased party. In other words, they have a unique perspective on the situation.

Here are a few other ways to help build psychological safety in the workplace:

Reframe Negative Thinking

Sometimes, when we’re assigned a task that seems laborious or even out of our comfort zones, we feel the need to complain or push back on the assignment.

What if we reframed these uncomfortable situations? What if we thought of these assignments as learning opportunities, rather than just something to add to our to-do list.

Find ways to be more positive in the office and try to encourage co-workers to do the same. Even a small change in mindset can help an office take steps in the right direction.

Encourage Active Listening

Employees want to always feel heard, whether they’re speaking to their peers or their managers. If anyone has an idea that they want to implement or helpful feedback that they’d like to discuss, they should feel free to do so.

It may be helpful to organize an information session about active listening, the effects it can have on an office, and ways employees can improve their active listening skills.

Make Values Clear

If your workplace values safety, that must be made exceptionally clear. As always, discuss your concerns and ideas with managers and/or HR directors.

You may also decide that it’s necessary to have one or multiple team meetings discussing how your unique workplace practices psychological safety.

Once everyone has been briefed on the expectations regarding company values and safety, it will be important to make sure that nobody becomes complacent in practicing them (more on that later).

One great way to prevent this is to have a written-out version of the company values that individuals can be referred to when necessary.

Holding Individuals Accountable for Safety

Once you’ve had your initial discussions about psychological safety in the workplace, you may notice that some people will slip back into their old habits.

How do you prevent this and effectively create an entirely new culture?

One way is to respectfully remind people of how their actions affect the psychological safety of the office. This could be done verbally or even through emails.

From this point forward, managers should try to hire people that exhibit these values. They should be willing to contribute to the overall safety of the office, rather than bring it down.

If individuals begin worrying about what others are doing and trying to out-compete them, it may be time for further discussions about how their actions affect the office.

Employees who are unable to comply with the new office culture may need to be reevaluated.

In Summary

There’s no perfect way to create workplace safety that will work for every industry and environment, but it’s something to be aware of and to work toward as a team.

If work is not a safe place for you or your co-workers, it’s time to start a conversation. I’d be happy to provide resources to you and your team for improving the cultural health of the office and creating a safer working environment moving forward. Get in touch with me to schedule a meeting and assess your unique needs.