Breathe together

What is psychological safety and how can design help?

“Work" is no longer a place, but a state. Most tasks can be performed anywhere. But when you remove the physical framework around the office, a vacuum arises. Most people agree that the pandemic is changing the way we work, but what is psychological safety and why is it important?

Written by Pål 10.06.2021
Senso barsofa sammen med et høyt Kvart bord i en restaurant fra Fora Form

Many of the issues are not new. Discussion about the degree of interaction in the office has been going on for years. The vacuum is important to be aware of, both for the employer, the employee and for us who help design meeting places. The culture and trust that is created in the social arenas of the company may now be more important than ever. The transfer of competence and culture building takes place in the breakout zone between departments, not only in video conferences.

Int Work and Breathe Zone Knekk 001 v02

"When you remove the physical frames of the office, a vacuum arises. The question is how to fill the vacuum and ensure that colleagues feel safe and that they can speak their mind..."

What is the office's "new" function??

In 2016, Google had observed, like many others, that some teams worked and performed better together. With their large, diverse organization and enormous access to metadata about who worked together and how, they had the opportunity to find out what makes a team successful.

Psychological security is at the core of teams and business success. Design can help create the zones where the transfer of knowledge and creating safety takes place...

They named the project "Aristotle" after the Greek philosopher, whose method was to ask questions. They investigated whether equal personalities or diversity made a difference, whether more intelligent people worked better together than a mix of people with different abilities. They linked men, women, worldviews, cultures, ethnic backgrounds - yes, all conceivable indicators and monitored the results.

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"Feeling safe and secure, to be able to trust others in the team, to speak your mind, ask questions, give feedback and make suggestions - without the risk of reprisals or being ridiculed - is what all the successful teams had in common."

Google found one thing that leads a team to success

That one thing is "psychological safety." To feel safe and secure, be able to trust the others in the team, to speak your mind, ask questions, give feedback and make suggestions - without the risk of reprisals or being ridiculed - is what all the successful teams had in common. Everything else was irrelevant.

What is important in order to perform?

Professor Amy Edmonton at Harvard University is a researcher and has repeatedly shown that psychological safety is crucial to performance, both as a team and as an individual. She mentions three perspectives that are needed to facilitate psychological safety: firstly, that the task to be performed is a source of learning and development, secondly that leaders and the others in the team must dare to be open, be able to show their own weaknesses - and finally that you have to be curious about each other.

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Our job is to create zones that enables good human encounters. Furniture that enables interaction. Zones that create space for safety and equality.


Succeed with this, and you have created an office for the future.