Creating Psychological Safety Remotely

June 30th, 2020

Psychological safety and trust are key components of fostering wellbeing and success at any organization, at any time. But they’re doubly important right now—since we’re in a global crisis, working remotely. Here’s a sample Resource from our Responding to Covid-19 Learner Journey all about trust and psychological safety. We also focus on psychological safety in our Wellbeing at Work Program.

Trust, Safety, and Remote Work

One of the biggest barriers to remote work is trust: companies have trouble trusting that employees are getting work done on their own, without supervision. Many companies never developed remote work policies for this reason—and, now that their hands have been forced, are reacting in precisely the wrong way.

Josh cites an example on his blog, saying, “One of our clients (an engineering firm) put a monitor on home workers’ computers so it beeps whenever a worker is not typing for more than 3 minutes. This does not create a sense of trust.”

Instead, Josh suggests combining high standards with a high-support environment. Productive, creative, and happy workforces arise when people are expected to deliver great work—but also supported when they experiment and take risks.

Josh suggests a few criteria we should bring to the different areas of remote work in order to foster psychological safety and develop a creative, engaged, and resilient remote workforce:

  • Tools should be simple - “This is easy and it works.” Remote work requires new technology, but whenever possible, we should try to streamline what employees are expected to learn, minimizing the number of platforms to master and passwords to memorize. Prioritize tools that are seamless, integrated, and intuitive.

  • Rules should be clear - “I know what’s expected.” Longstanding HR policies will need an update as we trade commuting benefits for home office stipends, adjust digital security to a dispersed workforce, and more. Make sure that these changes are clearly articulated and accessible to everyone—and that we’re communicating as the rules continue to shift.

  • The norms should hold people accountable - “I understand how to behave.”: The decisions we make about our behavior now will likely echo for a long time to come. As leaders, we need to set clear expectations—are our work hours shifting? What should I do if I need to homeschool during the day? Video on or off? Modeling good habits helps people understand norms as they evolve.

  • Our culture should encourage trust - “I can be myself and thrive.”: Keeping people connected when they are physically separate requires extra effort. Make sure to emphasize and celebrate the things that make your organization—and your people—unique. Birthday celebrations, family meet-and-greets, and more help maintain the organizational fabric.

Taken together, these steps shore up the psychological safety of our community. They keep employees mentally engaged, energized, and motivated to accomplish their tasks. Collectively, that means that the organization is more nimble, more connected, and more resilient as we face this challenge, and whatever comes next.

To dive deeper into employee wellbeing, be sure to enroll in the Wellbeing at Work Program in the Josh Bersin Academy, The next session starts on July 1.