The DOs, DON'Ts and WHYs of Psychologically Safe Remote Teams

Psychological safety has become a big buzzword, especially since COVID shook up the entire world and led to “The Great Resignation.” People are empowered and enticed more than ever to move between jobs due to remote work availability and changes in market salary. They are choosing to work for companies that are stepping up to the plate, during what I once heard called “The Human Revolution.” At its core, psychological safety is about people feeling safe to be human, unafraid to err, or admit to it.

But WHY should teammates and leaders care about psychological safety?

Many of the standard American work practices were formed during the Industrial Revolution, and put in place to increase the output of physical labor. Even though the Technological Revolution has drastically changed the nature of a large percentage of American jobs, work practices have been slow to catch up. 

As technology and society continue to progress, jobs are requiring more and more mental labor, and there are ever increasing demands on people’s mental energy outside of work.

The output of mental labor is drastically affected by an individual’s feelings of psychological well being (or lack thereof), meaning that:

Promoting psychological safety not only benefits people’s overall happiness and quality of life, it also increases teamwork, productivity, and quality. It’s a win for everyone involved.

But psychological safety doesn’t magically exist. It takes work to create a space that is psychologically safe. And fully remote work adds yet another layer of complexity to the mix. 

If you want to start increasing the psychological safety of your remote team, follow this list of things that psychologically safe remote teams DO and, more importantly, DON’T do. Everyone on the team can and should participate in making the workplace a safe space for everyone, but these tips include some additional notes for leaders.

Leaders specifically:

One of the key tenants to understanding psychological safety is that everyone experiences situations in their own world, through their own lens. Regardless of your position on your team, try implementing (or stopping) some of these behaviors and you will almost certainly see positive outcomes. You can’t create or destroy time, but more can be done in less time if you employ these strategies that can help increase mental output – oh, and work can become fun and enjoyable as a side effect!

Written by

Caroline WoodyHQR engineering manager