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The psychology of working in a safe environment

[fa icon="calendar"] 2/1/17 10:30 AM / by SAMTRAC



We all know about the obvious legal and financial benefits that come with giving health and safety instruction to employees. But what we don’t always appreciate is how your business can also enjoy enhanced productivity and satisfaction among your workforce by keeping the workplace safe – both physically and psychologically. With this in mind, here’s a look at the reasons behind this, and tools to achieving this for your own organisation. 

It’s important to note that employees in a safe work environment can focus better on their tasks, simply because they do not have to worry as much about their personal safety. This enhanced focus will eventually lead to better work output and quality, ultimately increasing productivity and consequently, the company’s profits in the long run. 

Employees who are confident of their safety at work also tend to be more satisfied with their employers — and it goes without saying that this increase in employee morale will also boost productivity. Employers who take measures to keep their workers safe are also more likely to earn the loyalty of employees, and as such, highly valuable skilled workers are less likely to leave and transfer to other companies. 

Connected to this is psychological safety, i.e. the shared belief that a team is safe. In psychologically safe teams, team members feel accepted and respected. Implementing positive psychology in the workplace means creating an environment that is relatively enjoyable and productive. This also means creating a work schedule that does not lead to emotional and physical distress. 

According to the US Department of Labor, in 2009 employed people worked an average of 7.5 hours a day. Eighty-four per cent of these people did some or all of their work at their workplace. This indicates that the majority of employed people spend the majority of their time at work, outside their homes. With this in mind, employers must do their best to create a low stress and inspiring work environment to ensure increased productivity. 

Positive psychology in the workplace is about shifting attention away from negative aspects, such as:

  • work violence
  • stress
  • burnout
  • job insecurity.

Positive psychology can help create a working environment goal of promoting a positive effect in its employees. Don’t look at the concept of ‘fun’ as something you cannot achieve during work, but rather as a motivation factor for staff. It is also important to examine the role of:

  • helping behaviours
  • team building exercises
  • job resources
  • job security
  • work support.

The new emerging field of positive psychology also helps to creatively manage organisational behaviours and to increase productivity in the workplace through applying positive organisational forces. Broadly speaking, traditional psychology has not specifically focused on implementing positive psychology methods in the workplace. But, recent research on job satisfaction and employee retention has shown that a greater need to focus on implementing positive psychology in the workplace will be to a company’s benefit.

The initial steps you take to create a safe, happy workplace for your employees can begin simply. For instance, by merely paying greater attention to the ergonomic aspects of your workplace, you can already enhance positive feelings for employees in the organisation. 


10 workplace design considerations


  1. Thermal comfort and temperature

Thermal comfort is created through the right combination of temperature, airflow and humidity.

  1. Access to nature, views and daylight

People generally prefer to be surrounded by nature, which provides endless sources of variation and sensory change. 

  1. Sensory change and variability

A lack of visual stimulation during the day can dull the senses and affect a worker’s ability to stay alert.

  1. Colour

Use colour strategically to promote desired behaviours and feelings based on psychological reactions, not personal preference.

  1. Noise control

The key is enabling people to control noise by providing access to a room with a door and acoustical separation when needed.

  1. Crowding

The perception of crowding can be reduced through the use of furniture, plants, decorative elements or pillars. These objects prevent people from feeling crowded or distracted. The perception of space and whether a person feels crowded varies greatly by cultural background, individual preferences and gender.

  1. Human factors and ergonomics

‘Human factors’ is an area of workplace psychology that focuses on a range of topics including ergonomics, workplace safety, reducing human error, product design, human capability and human-computer interaction.

  1. Indoor air quality

Invest in carpet, paint, furniture and other workplace finishes with low counts of particulates, gases or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can trigger illness; invest in equipment with ENERGY STAR labels; Ensure heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and other office equipment is checked and maintained on a regular basis; train cleaning staff on how to use cleaning equipment and products, and add plants to the office to help clean the air. 

  1. Choice

Well-designed workplaces provide opportunities for both and allow individuals to choose when and how they use them.

  1. Employee engagement

Provide work spaces that enable visibility, openness and greater employee mobility to foster engagement. When workers are more likely to see each other, they are more likely to connect and collaborate.


10 hallmarks of psychologically safe workplaces


Similarly, it’s not just the aesthetics of a workplace that can assure employees that they’re safe. Security also extends to their psychological and emotional wellbeing. A psychologically safe workplace benefits everyone – it reduces turnover, reduces cost and creates a productive, effective working environment that people enjoy. As a people leader, it’s important to understand each of the factors to ensure you’re contributing to a psychologically healthy workplace. 

  1. Psychological support

Organisations that are psychologically supportive take action to safeguard the mental wellbeing of employees and provide appropriate resources when employees need help. When employees feel they have psychological support at work, they are:

  • more loyal to the company
  • more satisfied with their job
  • more effective at what they do
  • happier to go to work.
  1. Organisational culture

Trust, honesty and fairness are all trademarks of organisations with healthy corporate cultures. A positive culture can have a dramatic effect on the mental wellbeing of your employees and contributes significantly to workplace satisfaction.

  1. Clear leadership and expectations

Effective leadership and clearly-defined expectations create an environment where employees know what it means to succeed. It also leads to high employee morale and organisational trust. Lack of leadership and unclear expectations can increase frustration and stress.

  1. Civility and respect

Work cultures that are respectful and considerate foster good employee morale, low absenteeism, excellent teamwork and high levels of perceived fairness. The result? A culture marked by positivity and widespread job satisfaction.

  1. Growth and development

If you give your employees opportunities to grow and develop their professional and interpersonal skills, you’ll create a more committed workforce that performs better in current and future roles.

  1. Recognition and reward

Organisations that are good at recognition and reward know how to appropriately appreciate the efforts of employees in a timely way. Workforces that are recognised and rewarded are more motivated, confident and tend to exceed expectations.

  1. Involvement and influence

Employees want to feel that they have a voice at work. When employees are engaged and empowered effectively, the result is higher morale, job satisfaction and a healthier corporate culture. When employees feel like their opinion doesn’t matter or they aren’t able to make decisions in areas that should logically be within their authority, stress builds and job satisfaction suffers.

  1. Workload management

Environments that consistently overburden staff with an unreasonable workload can cause stress and emotional havoc. However, a challenging yet realistic workload creates job satisfaction and builds confidence.

  1. Balance

Employers that recognise the importance of work–life balance and feature flexible policies, which respect the demands of the individual’s home life, create a happier, less stressed and more productive employment culture.

  1. Psychological protection

Employers that promote mental wellbeing at work and take proactive steps to prevent psychological harm create an environment of openness and trust – employees feel confident that they can speak up and voice their opinion or concern without fear of consequence.








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Topics: Psychosocial Wellness, Safety



SAMTRAC International is the leading occupational health, safety and environment (HSE) management e-learning training course that provides students with the foundational and fundamental knowledge critical to occupational HSE management.

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