Creating the Optimal Working Environment in Your Office

Google recently conducted a study across all regions of their office locations regarding optimal team performance in the workplace and released their conclusions; in this article we will discuss the findings that surprisingly revealed the most common variable among the highest-performing teams is one thing: psychological safety, and the belief that you won’t be reprimanded if a mistake is accidentally made.

There’s no team without trust

Studies show that psychological safety allows for honesty, intuitive thinking, moderate risk taking and creativity without fear of ending up in the Managers office: these are the exact environments that lead to well-oiled teams and consequently market breakthroughs.

In order to better explain these findings it’s useful to visit psychology and ancient evolutionary adaptations that explain why psychological safety is a delicate balance yet vital to success in ambiguous or symbiotic working environments.

The psychology behind it

The brain processes a provocation by a Manager, bigheaded coworker, or facetious subordinate the same way it would a fight or flight response to a threat in the wild. There is a section of our brain which acts as an alarm bell and ignites the response irrationally. This “act first, think later” brain reaction shuts down logical reasoning. While this response may save us in life-or-death situations, it stops calm and rational thinking required in any workplace.

Positive emotions yields the optimal environment for productivity

Twenty-first-century success depends on another system — the broaden-and-build mode of positive emotion, which allows us to solve complex problems and foster cooperative relationships. Positive emotions such as trust, interest, assurance, and motivation broaden the mind and help us build psychological, social, and physical resources. When humans feel safe, the overriding emotions become more progressive, robust, interested, and determined. Problem solving and divergent thinking also increases: the cognitive processes that underlie imagination.

When the workplace feels like a challenging yet not threatening place, teams can sustain the broaden-and-build mode. Oxytocin levels in our brains rise, prompting feelings of trust and trust-making behavior. This is a key factor in team success according to Google: “In the Google offices fast-paced, highly demanding environment, our success hinges on the ability to take risks and be vulnerable in front of other team members.”

If you nurture this sense of psychological safety on your own team, you can expect to see:

  • Increased levels of engagement.
  • Augmented motivation to tackle difficult problems.
  • More development opportunities.
  • And of course an undoubtedly better performance.

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