Maintaining Psychologically Safe Workplaces with Remote Teams

Find ways to maintain your psychologically safe workplace—where team members feel safe to take risks and be vulnerable with each other—when your teams can’t be in the same room.

With a large portion of employees around Canada now instructed to work from home where possible, it’s a pivotal time to find balance in the upheaval, and maintain the psychologically safe workplace—where team members feel safe to take risks and be vulnerable with each other—you worked so hard to achieve in your regular work environment. 

First and foremost, it’s important to stay connected—no matter how far apart you are, physically, from one another. Social connection nurtures good mental health, collaboration and teamwork. The positive challenge with a virtual team is how to get more creative in the delivery of this connection. 

Building (Virtual) Connection

  • Weekly (or daily) all-team check ins. Be sure that these team talks include a discussion about the work at hand as well as time for non-work-related discussion (books your team is reading, a good movie they’ve seen, how they incorporate physical activity into their day, etc.). Not only will this help your team gel, it may also present some threads of information otherwise unknown to you as the leader in terms of personal strains, wins that your staff may be shy to bring up or even some clever home office hacks that you and your team can use. 
  • Host virtual events. Things like team coffee chats or a lunch (perhaps where everyone gets something delivered and enjoys it at the same time over a video conference) can really help to establish community, which is so important for high functioning teams. 

Getting on the Same Frequency

  • Get familiar with tech. Anyone who was working remotely before this crisis hit will tell you how important video conferencing is to them and their feeling of connectedness. There’s so much to be said for body language and facial expressions to help guide a meeting. With so many options available to us these days (Microsoft Teams, Slack, Google Hangouts, Zoom, etc.), using video has never been easier—or more important. 
  • Set expectations. With all these new channels to communicate and stay connected through, it’s crucial that you set clear expectations for your team so they know how and when to engage on all of them. You’ll likely have a variety of skill and confidence levels with this technology, so creating spaces that are inclusive and give everyone equal opportunities to contribute will be both challenging and critically important. 

Understanding Your Team

  • Be a (behaviour) model. Employees look to their leaders for cues and will follow your lead on everything from the team culture and how strictly processes are followed, to understanding business priorities and how to interact with one another. Lead by practicing psychologically healthy habits yourself, like setting and following clear expectations, ensuring civility and respect, being vulnerable and providing recognition and reward to your team.
  • Listen, actively. Practice active listening by repeating back what you are hearing them say and asking clarifying questions. Understanding not only what they’re saying, but also the meaning or motivation behind the words is much more challenging when you’re not face-to-face. Be sure to end all your interactions with a quick summary of what you heard and provide an opportunity for staff to clarify if something isn’t quite right—you’ll feel better, and be more productive, for it. 

Although working remotely opens up previously unknown doors for a lot of employers, it’s important to remember that establishing clear processes and expectations, knowing which channels to go through for what types of communication and working from a platform of honesty and authenticity will all help to lay the groundwork for, or continue to foster, your psychologically healthy workplace.

Business Assistance Services: Support for Your Whole Business

If you’re a business owner with benefits through Chambers Plan, don’t forget about supports available to you through Arete’s Business Assistance Services (BAS). Simply call Arete at 1-877-412-7483 with your Firm and Certificate number to access confidential and professional guidance to help you navigate human resources, financial and legal situations, as well as critical incidents that may arise at your organization.

Through BAS, you also gain access to the Healthy Business Bookmark™, a carefully curated online library of business information and resources, including sample forms, how-to guides, podcasts and videos. This site is designed to help you manage your business and your employees while recovering from the unique challenges this pandemic has created. It ensures you have access to the resources you need to shore up your future success.

Check out the Healthy Business Bookmark today through the link on your my-benefits® portal.

Arete HR

Arete HR

Arete® HR is a Chambers Plan partner and leader in assistance programs for businesses and employees. They work to build resilience within people and the organizations that support them through programs that offer human resources, financial and legal supports for businesses and psychosocial counselling and other supports for employees.