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May 31, 2023

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Technological changes in hybrid working benefits psychological safety in the workplace, experts have said

Hybrid working is one of the benefits of ensuring psychological safety in the workplace, according to experts.

Jordan Harlow, Occupational Psychology Consultant at HSEQ consultants Shirley Parsons, has revealed the benefits of the modern changes in hybrid working.

Jordan Harlow, Occupational Psychology Consultant at Shirley Parsons

He said the development of video meetings such as Zoom, MS Teams, Hangouts and Google Meets have helped increase psychological safety for those working at home.

And he believes this in turn will help improve the safety of a business as a whole.

“The belief within a team or organisation that it is safe for them to express themselves without fear of negative consequences such as ridicule, rejection, or punishment is paramount to a healthy culture,” he said.

“This psychological safety is key to improving the creativity, collaboration and productivity of a team and in fact has been shown to be one of the best indicators of high performing teams.

“A culture of fear can lead to employees hiding faults and issues to appease those they are afraid of.
“Remote and hybrid working environments have become a common option since the 2020 pandemic.
“Video calls – rather than over the phone – are an invaluable tool to assist in a sense of connection to your team.
“Body language and expressions are a large part of communication, with studies by Dr. Mehrabian showing 90% of communication exists in nonverbal forms which influence our interpretation of information.
“Video conferencing allows for the nonverbal elements to still be relevant when collaborating or sharing ideas and thoughts

“In addition, online tools such as shared documents or project management software allows for teams to work more effectively together, reduce misunderstandings in projects and promote transparency of work.
“When workers are remote and especially if siloed, it can be difficult to see the progress of your co-workers which can lead to feelings of dissociation from the team.
“Dissociation from the team results in less collaboration and openness, through the transparency and involvement of collaboration tools this is remedied by showing how things are moving around each person.”

“Leaders are the centre of psychological safety”

Safe at work safe at homeJordan said the strongest tool against dissociation is informal communication and this should be continued in a hybrid working situation such as a virtual coffee break or an online game session.

And online meetings should also include active listening – rather than being distracted by elements of the home.

He also used the example of Chernobyl in 1986 when a series of operator errors and inherently unsafe design led to the direct deaths of 31 people and 4000 indirectly.

The disaster saw many issues build up and continue to run without being discussed.

A reason for this could be fear of authority and the need to please the political party that created a culture of fear; one where it is better to keep your head down rather than questioning leadership and its decisions.

Jordan said there are other things companies can do to ensure psychological safety.

“When in discussions of “safety culture” in companies, it is hard to build a safe culture if the base of that culture doesn’t start in the minds of those who carry the weight of that culture on their backs,” he added.
“In all cases leaders are the centre of psychological safety; they build, maintain and spread culture through action and damage it through negligence.

“The first step to building and improving psychological safety is to create a strong foundation of openness to expand upon and lead by example.
“Along this same train of thought, foster a culture of positivity by celebrating success and offering support – as the flag bearer to those you lead, it is on you to encourage positive traits and create a safe environment for them to thrive.

“Similarly, regular check-ins are powerful in driving employee engagement. Ask for feedback, give support, check in on how they are doing in work and their personal life.

“In addition, address conflict proactively and encourage team members to resolve issues directly with each other, while offering support if needed.

“One suggested activity to foster and maintain communication in a group is to practice weekly “successes and struggles”.

“Allow openness, celebrate even the little wins and offer guidance on struggles they face.”

For more information visit the Shirley Parsons website.

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