Two years after a world-first study into workplace psychological safety, defined as “a team climate characterised by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves”, results from a survey by suicide prevention charity R U OK? show businesses can be doing more to ensure colleagues feel connected.
The 2019 Australian Workplace Psychological Safety Survey surveyed 1093 Australian employees and found that just under a quarter do not currently do any activities to connect them with colleagues. One of the biggest barriers was not having time due to workloads.
This is concerning, considering the research of leading suicidologist Thomas Joiner, which finds a lack of connection or belonging as one of the three major forces contributing to someone’s risk of suicide.
Workplace mental wellness expert and R U OK? board member Graeme Cowan is calling on businesses to address this, pointing to both the social and economic benefits to organisations when its people feel connected and psychologically safe.
“A ‘psychologically safe’ workplace is characterised by a climate of interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people feel comfortable being themselves and to ask for help,” he says.
“Organisational workload will always be a barrier; however those who create opportunities for employee connection such as morning teas or celebrations for birthdays foster a positive culture.
“While there are benefits to individuals and a duty of care from organisations, psychologically safe teams have also been shown to be the most innovative – and in a worrying development, only 28% of respondents said they felt safe to take a risk in 2019 compared to 34% in 2017.
“Today’s results demonstrate more needs to be done to educate organisations on these benefits, to ensure all Australians are seeing the rewards of psychologically safe workplaces.”
These results were announced at R U OK?’s annual conversational leadership event in Melbourne on 16th May, which brought together 100 managers for a practical workshop on building an R U OK? culture in the workplace.
In addition to interactive demonstrations and take away resources, the event featured case studies from Woolworths, Connor Menswear and Sydney Trains, diverse organisations which have successfully applied this cultural change.
“As Australia’s largest employer, the mental health of our team members is our number one safety, health and wellbeing priority,” said Kevin Figueiredo, General Manager of Safety, Health and Wellbeing for Woolworths Group.
“In the past 12 months we have introduced new mental health programs and trained 16,000 team members across the Group with the skills and knowledge to help peers showing signs of mental health issues.
“We recognise mental health is not just an issue for our teams but also friends and families, and we are committed to continuing to support innovative programs like R U OK? to keep these important conversations going.”
The survey was the result of a collaboration between R U OK? and Amy Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School and originator of the concept of psychological safety.
R U OK? produces targeted workplace resources to support all businesses to get the conversation flowing. These resources are free, open source and available to download.