- Workers may be able to add improved psychological safety to the list of benefits they see from remote and hybrid work, according to survey data published Tuesday by well-being software platform meQuilibrium.
- In a poll of some 3,900 meQuilibrium users, those who were on-site employees said they were 66% more likely than remote and hybrid employees to feel mistakes were held against them and 56% more likely to say colleagues said their organizations rejected people for being different. To a lesser extent, on-site employees were more likely to report difficulty in asking teammates for help.
- The research also found on-site workers were less likely to say they felt at ease discussing difficult issues and problems, safe to take risks or that team members valued and respected each other’s contributions.
Psychological safety is an emerging term within the HR lexicon. In a blog analyzing the results of meQuilibrium’s survey, Brad Smith, the company’s chief science officer, wrote that meQuilibrium had used the definition of psychological safety put forward by Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmonson in a 1999 paper.
Edmonson defined the concept as “a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking,” demonstrated through actions such as admitting an error, asking for help or seeking feedback. Such behaviors may pose a threat to members of an organization, Edmonson wrote, because they may cause a person to feel incompetent or otherwise fear they will appear as such to others.
HR professionals aren’t immune to this phenomenon, one speaker at the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2022 annual conference told attendees. If members of an organization feel unable to speak their minds and question the status quo, this may create barriers to innovation and change management, Smith noted.
Most employees in the meQuilibrium survey did report a high degree of psychological safety, Smith said, but the company found that remote and hybrid employees consistently reported higher levels of safety than did on-site employees, even accounting for factors such as age, gender, race and ethnicity.
“While the evidence is strong that there is a real difference across work settings, it could be the case that employees in remote settings feel a higher level of psychological safety just because they don’t know what they don’t know,” Smith added. “By virtue of being remote, these employees are out of earshot of office common area conversations, and/or less able to read facial expressions on video calls — either of which may lead to a misperception about psychological safety.”
Other factors include the role of leaders in supporting employee well-being. MeQuilibrium found that remote and hybrid workers were 10% more likely to say their managers were looking out for their well-being.