Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, American workers were struggling to reach their full potential. In a national survey we conducted of more than 14,500 workers across industries in 2017, approximately 85% of them said they were not working at 100% of their potential. In fact, only 15% of workers said they were. Moreover, 16% of respondents said they were using less than 50% of their potential. What was keeping the vast majority of workers from using all of it? And what was empowering the minority of people who reported that they were able to do so? In that research, we identified organizational, interpersonal and individual factors that contributed to a person’s capacity to do their job most effectively.
Sorting out hybrid work arrangements will require managers to rethink and expand one of strongest proven predictors of team effectiveness: psychological safety. When it comes to psychological safety, managers have traditionally focused on enabling candor and dissent with respect to work content. The problem is, as the boundary between work and life becomes increasingly blurry, managers must make staffing, scheduling, and coordination decisions that take into account employees’ personal circumstances — a categorically different domain. Obviously, simply saying “just trust me” won’t work. Instead, the authors suggest a series of five steps to create a culture of psychological safety that extends beyond the work content to include broader aspects of employees’ experiences.