Creating a Psychologically Safe Workplace

Happy coworkers all talking together

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, “seventy per cent of Canadian employees are concerned about the psychological health and safety of their workplace, and 14 per cent don’t think theirs is healthy or safe at all.” This kind of number can have a detrimental impact on people’s personal lives, which can contribute to having a negative impact on the workplace. 

Understanding Psychological Safety

A psychologically safe workplace is an environment where employees feel comfortable expressing themselves, taking risks, owning their mistakes and sharing their opinions and ideas without fear of any negative consequences. This type of workplace is one where effort is made to prevent harm to employees’ mental health. A psychologically safe workplace allows employees to feel valued, respected, and supported, which can help to foster creativity, collaboration, and innovation. 

13 Factors Impacting Psychological Safety

There are thirteen factors in the workplace that are said to have an impact on workplace mental health and psychological safety. When each factor is not supported in the workplace, it can affect the employees and the organization in different ways. The thirteen factors include: 

  • Psychological Support: An environment that is supportive of employees’ psychological and mental health concerns.
    • Without it, it can lead to absenteeism, conflict, turnover, loss of productivity, and strain.
  • Organizational Culture: An organization that is characterized by trust, honesty, and fairness.
    • Without it, it can lead to stress in the workplace, low employee morale, and burnout.
  • Clear Leadership & Expectations: Effective leadership and support that lets employees know what they need to do, how their work contributes to the organization, and if there are any impending changes.
    • Without it, it can lead to irritable, angry, and nervous staff.
  • Civility & Respect: An environment where interactions are respectful and considerate.
    • Without it, it can lead to emotional exhaustion, health problems, greater conflict and job withdrawal.
  • Psychological Competencies & Requirements: A workplace where there is a good fit between employees’ interpersonal and emotional competencies and the requirements of the job. 
    • Without it, it can result in job strain which can be expressed in emotional distress, rumination, energy depletion, lower mood levels, etc. 
  • Growth & Development: Encouragement and support for the development of employee, personal, and emotional skills. 
    • Without it, employees will grow bored and frustrated which can cause performance to drop, and disengagement in the job.
  • Recognition & Reward: Appropriate acknowledgement and appreciation of employees’ efforts.
    • Without it, employees may not feel confident in their work, leading to burnout and distress.
  • Involvement & Influence: Employees are included in discussions about how their work is done and how decisions are made.
    • Without it, employees can feel as though they do not matter to the organization which can lead to job alienation and non-involvement. 
  • Workload Management: Where tasks and responsibilities can be accomplished successfully within a given time. 
    • Without it, it can lead to physical and emotional fatigue and increased stress and strain, which can cause burnout and decreased performance and productivity.
  • Engagement: Where workers feel connected to the work they are doing and motivated to do their jobs well. 
    • Without it, there is a loss of productivity, greater employee absenteeism and turnover, workplace deviance, and psychological and medical consequences.
  • Balance: Need for balance between the demands of work, family and personal life.
    • Without it, it can lead to stress, constant tiredness, inability to progress, overall decreased health and turnover. 
  • Psychological Protection: Employees feel safe to ask questions, seek feedback, report mistakes or problems, or propose new ideas without fear of negative consequences. 
    • Without it, employees can experience a sense of threat, and disengagement, and perceive workplace conditions as unpredictable which can lead to a decreased reputation from the public. 
  • Protection of Physical Safety: Appropriate action to protect the physical safety of employees is put in action.
    • Without it, it can lead to dangerous work environments where employees feel less secure and engaged which can lead to a potential increase in mental health problems. 

Strategies for Creating and Improving Psychological Safety in the Workplace

Creating and improving psychological safety in the workplace is not an easy thing to do. It takes a lot of work from the top down for it to be embraced and implemented in the workforce. Psychological safety requires a deliberate and consistent effort from everyone involved in the organization. Below are some strategies to consider in the workplace: 

  • Secure commitment from top leadership to prioritize psychological safety and mental health initiatives.
  • Create clear policies, procedures, and programs that highlight and support psychological safety and mental health. 
  • Educate employees about the importance of physiological safety and mental health in the workplace.
  • Provide continuous learning opportunities to employees through workshops, seminars, lunch & learns, courses, handouts, infographics, etc. 
  • Foster a culture where asking questions, seeking help or feedback, and admitting mistakes are encouraged and seen as opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Encourage employees to communicate when they are overwhelmed, provide resources for managing stress & anxiety, normalize taking breaks, and seek help when needed. 
  • Maintain consistent and reliable communication to build a sense of trust and stability. 
  • Recognize the importance of work-life balance and prioritizing well-being by setting expectations for reasonable workloads, encouraging time management, and providing resources on burnout. 
  • Promote a culture of respect, inclusivity and appreciation for diverse perspectives.
  • Emphasize collaboration, mutual support, and effective teamwork in the workplace and ensure that each team member’s contributions are valued and respected.
  • Clearly communicate important company information, performance expectations, goals, and metrics. 
  • Plan regular sessions or check-ins with employees to ensure open dialogue is facilitated in the workplace. 
  • Create a dedicated resource hub where employees can access information, resources, and tools related to psychological safety and mental health.

Measuring Psychological Safety in the Workplace

One of the best ways to measure psychological safety in the workplace is by conducting employee surveys or questionnaires regularly. These surveys will allow employees to provide feedback on their perceptions of psychological safety in the workplace. It also gives the organization a sense of where they are in terms of being a psychologically safe workplace and areas in which they can improve. 

If you are interested in learning more about creating a psychologically safe workplace, Insight offers a comprehensive workshop on this topic that will provide you with more details and insights. For more information on this workshop and others that we offer, please click HERE


[1] Dalhousie University. (2023, May). Fostering psychological safety in the workplace: 4 practical, real-life tips based on science.,%2C%20bullying)%20or%20negative%20consequences.

[2] Healthy Minds at Work. (n.d.). 13 factors affecting psychological safety and health in our workplaces.

[3] Mental Health Commission of Canada. (n.d.). Workplace mental health.,contribute%20to%20staggering%20economic%20costs.

[4] Bosler, S. (2021, June 3). 9 strategies to create psychological safety at work. Quantum Workplace.