Health and safety is an issue that all workplaces take seriously – and there are all manner of forms, checks and safety equipment designed to keep us physically safe in the workplace. But being safe is much more than having the right equipment; it’s just as important that we feel safe  when we work – and that requires acceptance, a sense of being connected to our co-workers, and a resonance and shared ambition for our goals.

Safety is more than protective clothing, signage and paperwork proving that no risks have been taken; it is a sense of security – a connection with those around us. Studies have shown that people perform best when they’re in teams, working with people that they trust, and with whom they feel safe. Healthy, safe working relationships mean there is humour, engagement and ‘heart’ to an organisation, and people enjoy being at work. This engagement necessitates a diverse environment, bringing together a wealth of experiences, and the focussed inclusion of people from a range of backgrounds, professional histories and environments.

Numerous studies show that those who are more engaged in the workplace are more likely to perform well, and those who perform well have a greater sense of wellbeing. A psychologically secure team will perform better, achieve more, and go further than one which feels insecure or unsafe. When we feel safe we develop bonds and friendships, in the workplace which strengthen that sense of safety and security, and that builds on the success of the team, leading to more insights, more creativity, more innovation and more breakthroughs – it leads to better relationships with clients, more sales, and all of this works to build confidence further.

Conversely, the impact of not feeling safe or supported in the workplace is significant – people who feel fearful or unsafe in the workplace are less creative, less innovative, far less confident, and more inclined to mistakes, to suffer ill health – stress, heart disease, mental health issues – and over time these problems have  a knock-on impact on the whole team, and the performance of the business.

Here at ASK, we offer a range of coaching, mentoring and programmes which support the development of team communication, honest relationships, and supportive leadership; no matter what your organisation is looking for, we can tailor a programme to meet your unique needs – and we take enormous pride in the relationships we develop. The most important aspect of any professional relationship is the people – and we are here to help you to be the best you can be, and encourage the same in your workforce.

What are companies getting so wrong?

When people leave an organisation, the most commonly identified issue is a difficult relationship with their line manager. If people are leaving your organisation because they don’t trust their managers or the decisions they make, the overall impact of that mistrust is damaging  on every level.

A leader who manages with dominance, segregation, fear and control will damage their own team, and that damage will spread to wider aspects of the business . It’s also common for this intimidation to be covert, masked as ‘strong, confident leadership’ to anyone looking in from the outside.

Equally, a divisive team in which people are pitted against one another with no opportunity or encouragement to bond, build relationships, and rely on one another will struggle to perform – when your goals are to achieve individual targets, people will compete – and this competition sets people against one another.

Worse still, when there is fake encouragement to bond, masking and sellotaping over an individualistic ‘me-first’ reward system. Team development isn’t about novelty games, days out or parties – it is about trusting the people around you, knowing and accepting their strengths and weaknesses, and working together as a cohesive whole, bringing people together and building confidence and success as a team.

Another vital aspect often overlooked is inclusivity and diversity – creating a team with a range of backgrounds, experiences and expertise, and allowing every member to be heard, supported and encouraged to perform.

How can companies create safe working environments?

The most important aspect of a safe working environment is honesty, with opportunities for open communication. Feedback, not only from leaders to their workforce, but in return – allowing for honest conversations so people know, in real time, how they are performing, and what support can be given to boost that performance.

This honest and open approach to communication clarifies the ground rules and expectations of the whole workforce, establishes shared goals, and means that any issues are voiced and expressed before they build, reducing negativity and contention. Allowing criticism in a healthy, supportive environment means that the team have the opportunity to address problems before they become big problems, allowing for reviews which focus on what can be learned from mistakes, rather than on blame.

There is no excuse for a member of any team feeling unsafe at work – healthy leadership, simple, small fixes and positive intent can shift the atmosphere of any workplace, creating a  psychologically secure – and therefore more successful – environment.

This culture of honesty, integrity and trust is one which all organisations can benefit from – and any successful leader can implement small, impactful changes which carry through every level of the workforce – and we can help you to begin that process today.

For more information on how you can bring this level of honesty, communication and trust to your team, give me a call today on 01234 757575 or email me directly on jo.manton@askeurope.com and we can have a conversation about your goals, your drive, and how we can work together to strengthen your working relationships.