Creating a Psychologically Safe Work Environment

Psychologically safe employees feel confident sharing ideas, asking questions, being themselves and even challenging the status quo – without the fear of being punished or humiliated. Remote work can put company culture and team trust to the test. However, the concept of psychological safety can still be achieved regardless of team or workplace location.

According to research, you may progress through four sequential stages of psychological safety:

  • Inclusion – You feel safe and accepted to be who you are.
  • Learner – You feel safe learning, asking questions, and giving and receiving feedback.
  • Contributor – You feel safe contributing with your skills.
  • Challenger – You feel safe speaking up when you see room for change or improvement.

After progressing through those four stages, you are more likely to be comfortable speaking up in the workplace.

Psychological safety typically hinges on organizational leadership, but there are ways that remote employees can challenge or influence workplace cultural norms. Consider the following ways you can help create a psychologically safe work environment:

  • Listen actively. Active listeners can make others feel valued by avoiding distractions and demonstrating understanding. Turn on your camera in meetings so it’s apparent you’re paying attention and engaged.
  • Practice awareness. During meetings or conversations, pay attention to how your words, actions and other nonverbal cues resonate with others.
  • Communicate effectively. It’s essential to set clear expectations for timeliness and goals. It’s also critical to check in often to lower the chances for miscommunication over emails and chat messages.
  • Get to know co-workers on a personal level. It can be challenging to make genuine connections with peers remotely. However, personal and casual cover stations can help create bonds with your co-workers, so ask open-ended questions and give others a chance to talk. Plan or ask for team-building activities, such virtual trivia or happy hours.
  • Recognize courageous acts. It’s vital to praise or acknowledge a co-worker when they show vulnerability to offer a new idea so they don’t feel embarrassed or unheard. You could simply send an email or shoot them a quick chat to give kudos.

While working remotely, you’ll have to be very intentional with showing appreciation and acceptance for co-workers and their ideas, thoughts and discussions. Talk to your manager if you have concerns or questions about psychological safety in your work environment.

The Importance of Cybersecurity

Remote work comes with unique challenges, including additional cybersecurity risks. Many cyberattack attempts are typically mitigated by IT and firewalls. However, those protections aren’t guaranteed for an employee working from home, as hackers can often work around them.

Human error is often a leading cause of cybersecurity breaches. This means that in many cases, such threats can be avoided.

While many employers are checking and testing their preparedness plans, remote employees can help prevent hackers from compromising personal or work data by understanding common cyberthreats and  how to look out for unusual activity. The following are cyberthreats to be aware of:

  • Vishing, or voice phishing, is when a scammer spoofs a legitimate phone number and poses as an IT help desk, using that alias to solicit personal information. These calls may even be routed to your cellphone, making it harder for IT or security systems to catch. Vishing attempts are a recent trend and are increasingly prevalent.
  • Phishing is an attempt to gain personal information, such as computer passwords, Social Security numbers or other data. Hackers and scammers will impersonate a legitimate company and send fake emails to solicit this information, typically with a phony threat.
  • Malware is a computer virus typically disguised as an innocuous program, email attachment or link. These viruses infect computers and can do any number of tasks, typically hidden from the user. For instance, they might store password data, track website activity or download personal files.
  • Brute force attacks are when hackers try logging into someone’s account many, many times. These attempts often work when individuals reuse usernames and passwords across different accounts. A hacker may expose the information to one account, then use those credentials everywhere else they can think of, eventually gaining access.

Especially in today’s climate, it’s critical to remain vigilant online. Remote employees can also take basic precautions like updating software and using strong passwords for personal and work accounts. Should you encounter a cyberthreat, report it to IT to ensure the safety of your data and  help prevent it from threatening your organization in the future. While cyberattacks are inevitable, you can help protect your work and personal data by staying aware of current threats.