What IS psychological health and safety?

Psychological Health and Safety

When I speak about the work I do, I often get asked the question, “But, really, what is psychological health and safety?”

To answer, I can point to a number of experts, who have done significant research in this space, such as:

The National Standard of Canada on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, “Psychological health and safety are embedded in the way people interact with one another on a daily basis and is part of the way working conditions and management practices are structured and the way decisions are made and communicated.”

Or Amy Edmondson, the globally recognized researcher and author of Teaming, describes psychological safety as“a climate in which people feel free to express relevant thoughts and feelings.”

I often think of it as: how are people showing up every day, and how is work structured, to allow each individual to bring their whole self to work, and do the best work they can.

When I discovered the framework introduced through the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, I was immediately intrigued. It describes 13 evidence-based psychosocial factors proven to support a psychologically healthy workplace. The factors are practical, and the framework is non-prescriptive, allowing it to be adapted to any industry, and to organizations of any size.

Why does psychological health and safety matter? Because it’s good for people, and it’s good for business.

The research shows that organizations that embed ways of leading and working that align with these 13 factors are, on average, better performers in all key performance categories from health and safety to key human resource measures to shareholder returns. It also creates the conditions for innovation and creativity, by fostering a culture where each individual feels safe and supported to take risks, share their perspective, and contribute their ideas.

In Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead, she speaks about Google’s 5-year study on highly productive teams (Project Aristotle), which found that psychological safety – defined by them as team members feeling safe to take risks and be vulnerable in front of each other – was one of the most important dynamics that set successful teams apart.

Think about the work environments you’ve been a part of. You can feel when you are supported professionally, mentally and emotionally. And when those conditions are met, that’s when most of us feel inspired and able to bring our best to work every day.

If you’d like to learn more about psychological health and safety, reach out to us, we’d love to connect.

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