Workplace Culture

4 Psychological Safety Practices for Remote and Hybrid Teams

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Recently, I was in a meeting about a complex project. People were providing me with updates on what had happened in the last six months and new project deliverables. I was trying to process the information and take it all in – this led to me missing some important points. As the meeting closed, I hesitated and thought, Should I ask about the points I missed? 

Feeling like you can admit if you need more support and can freely ask questions – without being judged – is the core of psychological safety and workplace well-being. 

Asking would mean admitting that I had lost my train of thought. Maybe my client would think I wasn’t listening, or worse, think I was not prepared for the work. My heart began to pound, and my palms felt sweaty, thinking, Did I feel safe enough to confess that I needed some points repeated? Did I feel like I could simply ask for help?

At that moment, I realized how important feeling psychologically safe was to me. Feeling like you can admit if you need more support and can freely ask questions – without being judged – is the core of psychological safety and workplace well-being. 

Is Your Team Psychologically Safe?
  • How easy is it to raise difficult issues and challenges between teammates in your workplace?
  • When someone makes a mistake, is there a feeling that mistake will be held against them?
  • How willing is your team to speak out about new trends, ideas, and information?

All the conditions above reflect a psychologically safe workplace. But for remote and hybrid workplaces, these conditions can be harder to achieve. Despite the flexibility of remote and hybrid work, it can be more difficult for a workplace to create psychological safety because interpersonal interactions and connections are lost or reduced. When working remotely or in a hybrid setting, people may feel more anxious, unsure of themselves, and even experience a dip in confidence.

When working remotely or in a hybrid setting, people may feel more anxious, unsure of themselves, and even experience a dip in confidence.

4 Ways to  Bridge the Gap in Remote and Hybrid Teams

1. Make Curiosity the Lead, Not Judgement 

In Amy Edmondson’s TEDx on building a psychologically safe workplaceshe suggests adopting a curious mindset and asking deeper questions to discover the rationale behind events that may normally be perceived as negative. For instance, if someone makes a mistake or doesn’t complete a project in the way expected, instead of assigning blame or assuming something negative about their performance, ask questions that replace blame with curiosity

Examples of curiosity-based questions:
  • “What prevented you from completing this part of the project?”
  • “What additional support or resources would have helped you complete this more effectively?”

These questions work well in both remote/hybrid and in-person environments because they are about engagement and curiosity rather than negative judgements and assigning blame.

2. Share the Why

Knowing what to do and when to do it is critical information for any team. But one piece that often gets left out is “Why?” People like to understand the rationale behind decisions – especially decisions that affect the organization’s direction or their own work.

Examples of sharing the why:
  • “I’ve decided to go in this direction because…”
  • “The reason I am changing your project deliverables is because…”
  • “What I can share with you is…”

If you don’t know the why, share that! People like to feel part of the process and to know why things are as they are – this reduces anxiety and the feeling of being out of the loop, which may be a common feeling in remote and hybrid teams. 

3. Express Appreciation

With distributed teams, more effort must be made to express appreciation for an individual or a team’s hard work. This means being more explicit with appreciation. Communicate it in multiple ways – celebrate good news through a video call, express gratitude in an instant message, or make an announcement through a short video distributed through email. Just because we can’t see teams or individual employees doesn’t mean people don’t want to feel seen and valued.

4. Rethink Video Calls

Experiment with different types of video calls to restore that sense of cohesion that seems easier in the office. For example, have a “sharing circle” meeting to start the day, where people can just catch up or ask questions. Or block out a particular chunk of time for a “watercooler drop-in,” where people can catch up and join or leave the meeting when they please. Worried these ideas will take too much time? Even trying these once or twice a month can go a long way. Try having different people host these events – this makes people feel even more engaged. 

if someone makes a mistake or doesn’t complete a project in the way expected, instead of assigning blame or assuming something negative about their performance, ask questions that replace blame with curiosity.

In Summary

Teams who feel psychologically safe at work don’t see putting forward new ideas as a daunting challenge but rather something that is expected and embraced. They can raise concerns and admit mistakes because they know they will be supported. For teams distributed in remote or hybrid environments, this is just as valuable and meaningful as it is for teams in the office. 


For more FREE resources, visit our resources page. If you enjoyed this blog, check out other blogs written by Jennifer. 

Author

Jennifer Kelly

Trainer, ACHIEVE Centre for Leadership

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