Continuing our focus on how talking can change lives, Khalil Rener, founder of Rener Wellbeing, explores how we can create psychologically safe workplaces in order to encourage conversation and improve employee wellbeing
Employee psychological safety is a key part of workplace wellbeing. Employees’ perception that they have, both from their managers and their peers, a sense of ‘permission’ to access workplace wellbeing support, and to speak about wellbeing openly, is an essential piece of the workplace wellbeing puzzle.
Without psychological safety, employees can feel disinclined to seek the support they need to help them feel well and to thrive at work. It can also reduce employee engagement with potentially expensive internal wellbeing initiatives, leading to little measurable improvement in employee wellbeing – which costs organisations significantly in many respects.
A psychologically safe environment is essential.
So, how do we go about creating an environment where employees feel encouraged and enabled to speak to their peers and managers about wellbeing, as well as boosting engagement with the wellbeing initiatives provided?
Step 1 – Awareness
Are all your employees on the same page about why your organisation is wanting to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable to speak about wellbeing with their peers and managers?
Do they know which wellbeing initiatives are currently being provided by your organisation and local community providers? Are new staff being inducted on the culture of wellbeing if one already exists within your organisation and are existing employees being reminded of it regularly?
Unless you have carried out a wellbeing awareness campaign recently, we suggest clarifying the above messages through a multi-pronged communication campaign. This could be through short recorded videos, manager catch-ups, town hall meetings, newsletters, posters, etc.
It is ideal if your senior leaders can share why they buy-in to employee wellbeing support and to fostering a culture of openness. Managers can subsequently share similar messages with their individual teams.
If you plan to implement a bespoke wellbeing strategy following the steps below, we suggest outlining the steps with your employees, so they feel a level of ownership and engagement in the process.
Step 2 – Measurement
Do you know how comfortable your managers are in supporting employees with multiple aspects of wellbeing? Do you know if all managers see creating a supportive environment for their team members as part of their role?
Do you know how comfortable employees feel to speak with peers and managers about wellbeing? Can you break this data down by job function and office locality?
If you do not know the answer to these questions with quantifiable data, we suggest you carry out a specific wellbeing survey separate from other engagement or employee surveys to show the importance of employee wellbeing to the organisation.
Carrying out externally facilitated focus groups and employee interviews to provide further qualitative data has also proven to deepen the information provided in the survey and can unveil other relevant issues around employee wellbeing – with a sense of anonymity.
Step 3 – Action Plan Development
Creating a tailored data-driven wellbeing strategy based on the wellbeing needs analysis suggested above is one of the most effective ways to provide employee wellbeing support. As part of this, it can highlight pain areas impacting psychological safety and a culture of openness towards wellbeing support.
From here, create or update your wellbeing action plan based on the unique wellbeing and psychological safety needs of your organisation.
If managers do not feel comfortable in supporting employees across multiple areas of wellbeing, we suggest running a Holistic Wellbeing Training for Managers to provide them with the tools to foster a culture where employees feel encouraged and enabled to look after their own wellbeing and to seek support.
Providing regular facilitated catch-up sessions for managers after the training helps to keep the impact of the training session sustained.
Training employees to be Wellbeing Champions or Ambassadors ensures that employees have dedicated peers to go to if they want to speak about all things wellbeing. The Champions can then help the employees as appropriate or signpost them on to the correct internal or external support if needed.
The Wellbeing Champions can also help to foster the culture of openness and help potentially swamped HR Teams with the sourcing, organisations and implementation of relevant wellbeing initiatives. We also suggest providing regular facilitated catch-ups for Wellbeing Champions to go answer their questions, share knowledge and ensure their impact is sustained.
Step 4 – Measure and Update
Culture is never stagnant. It is important to re-measure employee wellbeing, manager confidence and employee openness with wellbeing conversations. From here you can update the action plan to match the new needs and see the improvements the changes have made.
Implementing these four steps will help your employees feel listened to and encouraged to take part in conversations about their wellbeing and how they feel. They will promote engagement in your company’s existing and future workplace wellbeing schemes, giving both managers and employees confidence that how they are feeling and what they have to say is important.
Conversations can and do change lives, and should be encouraged in the workplace as much as in every other sphere of life.
Khalil Rener is the Founder and Director of Rener Wellbeing, a leading workplace wellbeing consultancy supporting organisations across the globe. Specialising in developing bespoke organisational wellbeing strategies, and working with organisations of all sizes, they run virtual and in-person wellbeing, EI and leadership training sessions and 1-2-1 also provide coaching. For more information, please email Khalil directly.