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How to Promote Psychological Safety in Virtual Meetings

Virtual meetings offer a practical solution to lockdowns and the closure of offices. How could we have functioned without them during the current pandemic? According to the Harvard Business Review, many people find online meetings are worrisome. They fear voicing an opinion, concerned that no one will agree with them or stand up for them. Under such circumstances, an individual can feel psychologically unsafe, isolated, and lonely. Their fears keep them from speaking up, which prevents the team from hearing diverse views. As a result, questions and concerns that should be raised during these meetings too often go unmentioned.

We do not know how the COVID-driven shift to remote working will impact workers in the long run, but it’s clear that virtual meetings are hard on some people. In response to this trend, leaders and managers are increasingly concerned with these questions:

  • How can we build psychological safety, engagement, and collegiality into the work for virtual teams?

  • How can we create an atmosphere that helps people who dissenting views speak up and share their ideas?

Here are This post suggests some answers to these questions.

Identify the causes of discomfort

Many factors impact individuals’ feelings about online meetings. For instance:

  • The difficulty, even the impossibility at times, of detecting social cues or non-verbal agreement

  • The absence of natural responses such as a supportive nod or smile from across the table

  • Distractions from kids, pets, emails, visitors, phones, and so on

  • Home and family responsibilities that interfere with work

  • The added pressures of life during a pandemic during which social unrest is running high

Build camaraderie and trust

While team leaders can’t change the pace of life in participants’ homes, here are some ways to smooth out some of the anxiety people have about online meetings.

Connect beforehand

There’s a big difference between entering an online meeting without knowing a soul and establishing a relationship beforehand. Anonymous surveys or one-on-one interviews before a gathering can boost engagement by creating a sense of connection. Friendly one-on-one calls to team members – especially newbies – can assure individuals that the leader takes an interest in them. And the leader could encourage similar conversations among individual team members – perhaps even a buddy system.

Add some fun to the agenda

Including a quick game, some show-and-tell or something as simple as an anonymous mood barometer poll can help establish a sense of camaraderie into a virtual meeting. A small investment in a group activity can yield significant gains in mutual understanding and productivity. Here are a few simple ways to inject some fun into the mix: