In early March of 2020, organizations were coping with the pandemic and trying to figure out how to work under a global, public health emergency. The switch to remote work, once taboo for many organizations, became somewhat of a norm by the end of the year.

If you recall, virtual meetings were somewhat intimidating and there were many stories of people who had embarrassing moments online. Incidents ranged from toddlers running into their parents’ office interrupting serious virtual discussions, to the sound of flushing toilets for those who forgot to mute their microphones.

Often, such incidents left employees feeling embarrassed and ashamed of not seeming professional. Employers also viewed these types of virtual mishaps as an indication that their employee did not have their life in order, which was of course an unfair bias.

In present times, thankfully there has been an increase in compassion for employees who have their personal life and professional life converging in less than ideal ways. In this edition of Thinking Strategically about your Human Resources, we focus on creating a psychological safe work environment.

Psychological safety is a termed coined by Harvard Business professor Amy Edmondson. It speaks to creating a work culture where all in the workplace can show up as their authentic self. It means that an employee can show up as they truly are, without fear of repercussion, hostility, or lack of acceptance. Such an environment fosters belonging, inclusion, respect, honesty, and the dignity of the individual. In the virtual meeting environment, this is as important.

In a recent article from HBR, “9 Trends that will shape work in 2021 and beyond” the author Brian Kropp”, points out that Employers will be required to support employees as they balance their life under this new work situation. In the past, Employers directly and indirectly communicated that an employee’s personal life was secondary to their work responsibilities. Some Employers went so far as to refer to the workplace as a family, to the detriment of an employee’s actual family. Often Employer’s insisted that unrealistic expectations be met which caused some employees to choose work over their family.

With the added responsibility of managing family responsibilities, remote learning, virtual appointments, and more open conversations about mental health the perspective is beginning to shift. Employers are recognizing, as the article states the need to put in place tools and resources to help their employees deal with the integration of all of life’s situations while working.

“What does this look like?”

To support employees, leaders can promote and model behaviours that demonstrate an understanding of the pressures their employees are under; after all leaders face them too.

  • Speak of the resources available to employees frequently in written communications and virtual meetings/interactions.
  • When interruptions happen, during virtual meetings, respond with calm, patience and understanding.
  • Create an employee resource page or area where employees can access information on benefits and other tools. You can include information on preparing for life changes like marriage and parenting, addressing feelings of grief and anxiety, how to get support for domestic abuse and
    financial advice.
  • Consider offering additional time for employees to work through personal circumstances above the minimum requirements.
  • Inspire and urge employees to take breaks throughout their workday.
  • Promote inclusion, diversity and equity by learning about the impacts of systemic racism and biases on minority and marginalized groups, and partner with organizations and agencies to create a culture that supports equitable work practices and policies.
  • Consider strategies for working in a more flexible manner and adapt schedules where possible.
  • When you notice an employee is not acting or responding as they have in the past, reach out and check-in and ask “How are you doing?”
  • Take time to listen to employees when they ask for help and respond in a timely manner.

As a leader, it is part of your responsibility to invest the time, resources, and tools to protect, the mental well-being of your employees. Providing a psychologically safe work environment demonstrates your commitment to your employees now and in the long term. While this change will not occur overnight as everyone is continuing to learn about the importance of promoting wellness, building resilience and adapting to changing circumstances, is a crucial step in the journey to create the workplace of the future

Stay well and stay safe.


For questions related to your benefits plan and to learn more about services available please contact Mike at or (416) 428-7728.

For assistance with your people management questions contact Marcella at (416) 898-7387 or

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