Work shouldn’t be a place where people fear for their safety, but for many workers, especially marginalized or minority workers, this is a reality. Safe workplaces are not just about creating physically safe environments, although that is of the utmost importance. Safe workplaces are also about creating mentally safe spaces.
With so much focus on mental health in the workplace these days, we are still struggling to figure out how to protect the wellbeing of people at work, while encouraging innovative risk-taking to further the company along. If you are looking to improve engagement and productivity, one of the easiest ways to do that is to create safe working environments for your employees. And while it is an easy way to do that, the process of creating a safe work environment is anything but easy.
Ask employees what they need.
The first thing you need to do to create and foster safe spaces in your workplace is to ask employees what they want and need. Everyone may have a different answer, and you can’t be expected to facilitate all of those requests, but the simple act of asking sets the precedent that you are paying attention to this vital topic and want to make positive changes.
When employees feel listened to, they are more likely to be more productive and have a greater buy-in for the company. If you just assume what they need, you’ll be mistaken more often than not. Everyone has unique needs and allowing them to share those needs with you will go a long way in creating a safe space for them and your other employees.
Create feedback loops for everyone involved.
Using feedback software programs, you can create feedback loops where you and your employees can interact, problem solve and engage about issues that face the company, individuals and teams at large. Electronic feedback loops provide safe spaces so that your employees don’t have to articulate their concerns face-to-face, which improves the likelihood that they will offer suggestions or report complaints.
Creating trust is one of the most important things you can do to ensure the productivity and profitability in your company. After all, if your employees don’t trust you, they can’t represent your company in a good light.
Allow people time to process.
When talking to someone about an issue at work, remember to hold space for that person while they process the information you just gave them. Whether it’s critical feedback about their performance or celebrating someone’s success, don’t rush people out the door after talking to them. Allow people to be physically present while they sort through their thoughts.
If someone becomes upset at work, offer them a private space to compose themselves and think through their thoughts. Perhaps this is your office or another private room where the door can be closed and provide privacy.
The most important thing you can do to create safe spaces in your workplace is to follow-up with any complaint, issue or report that is made. If employees can’t trust you to do that, they won’t trust you to do anything. And when it comes to create safe spaces, trust is the most important factor.
Regardless of what your employees offer, whether it’s constructive criticism or positive reinforcement that you are doing a good job as a manager, be sure to thank them and provide some kind of action-item attached to the information. This way, your employees know that they are being heard and will appreciate the attention to detail you provide in a follow-up email, response in a feedback software program, or telephone call. Better yet, if you want to make a lasting impression and really create safe spaces, deliver the message of follow-up in person.