10 Simple Ways Companies Can Create Safe Spaces

10 Simple Ways Companies Can Create Safe Spaces

When safe spaces became popularized, many opponents argued that they encroached on academic freedom and sheltered students from differing perspectives. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

Millions of students, especially minority students, thrived within these inclusive spaces when they became popular on college campuses. They provided everyone the opportunity the chance to debate, learn from one another, and be exposed to a worldview outside of their context.

Safe spaces offered students from all races, religions, and gender identities the chance to dialogue without assumption and step into one another’s shoes. In many ways, these spaces taught individuals how to work alongside differences and adapt to a diversified work environment after graduation.

If businesses want to thrive in the coming years, they need to learn from this experience. If they’re willing to adapt and adopt safe spaces within their own workplace, they’ll be able to replicate the same type of diversity in their own company.

Creating safe spaces is easier than you might think. So, let’s get started. Here are five tips that you can use to create safe spaces in your company, both in-person and online.

1) Ask for Help

This seems obvious, but it’s one of the most important steps. If you want your team to feel valued, you need to show them that you need them. When you take the time to ask them questions, you give people the chance to teach you something.

Lateral leadership is the only methodology that works within the workplace right now. It’s just the way it is. And it’s not a bad thing.

If you can harness this reality, you’ll learn something new, increase comradery, and gain the feedback of your team.

Your company can only benefit from this type of exchange.

2) Dress like your team members

Look, I’m not encouraging you to lose your entire identity for the sake of creating inclusion. But I am suggesting that imitating your team’s clothing opens the doors to more authentic conversation.

If your employees value sustainable living, Gucci loafers or $1.8 million Nike Air Yeezys won’t translate well.

So, tomorrow morning, before you pick out your outfit, take a glance at your company’s Instagram account. Then find something that blends in with the workplace culture.

3) Make time for fun

I know this seems counterintuitive, but it’s imperative that your workplace is a balanced environment.

Think back to your dating days. Now imagine if you had to wear a suit 24/7 and could only talk about work. Would you stay in that relationship?

It requires diversity in dialogue and activities outside the office.

So, the next time you’re creating your quarter goals, remember to add some fun. Plan an outing to mini-golf, participate in a fundraiser, or even host a monthly game night for your team and their families.

Be creative. And most importantly, foster authenticity by making room for fun.

4) Read more than you react

As leaders, the first thing that we want to do is react.

We solve problems and connect the dots in under 10 seconds. But, if you want to create safe spaces, you need to embrace organic moments of awkwardness. And believe me, you’ll face some awkward moments.

It’s not an easy undertaking to create safe spaces. The transition can be difficult. But, you need to embrace these moments.

If you force everyone to get along right away, you’ll cheat your team from experiencing true inclusion. They might smile and go along with your ideas, but it won’t last long.

Safe spaces are messy. But, if you’re willing to give it time and embrace the deafening silence at times, you’ll create safe spaces that are filled with authentic conversation and community.

5) Don’t pressure your team to educate you about racism

This is huge.

After the murder of George Floyd, millions of well-meaning leaders pressured their friends and colleagues to educate them on racism.

I get this knee-jerk reaction. As leaders, we want to fix everything. But it’s not about fixing everything at once. And you won’t fix anything if you use those around you as educational resources.

There are numerous books, podcasts, and speakers who have already done the legwork and research. Remember, fixing racism cannot happen overnight. It’s not a checklist that can just be crossed off when you’ve read enough books on the subject.

It means exploring your personal biases and turning towards the data that is already out there.

If you want to create safe spaces for your team, don’t burden them with educating you on your prejudices. Read from BIPOC authors and follow diversity and inclusion consultants on Twitter.

Approach anti-racism as a marathon; not a sprint.

6) Ask your team what they need

If you want to create safe spaces, ask your team what they need.

Don’t assume that everyone is comfortable with the same policies or approaches to diversity and inclusion. Everyone brings something unique to the table. Some teammates may feel more comfortable in smaller groups while others prefer larger gatherings.

Ask them what type of space would make them feel the safest.

Do they need more private one-on-one meetings or do they prefer a bigger group setting? Do they need extra time to process their thoughts before speaking up?

Your team may surprise you with their answers. But, don’t forget the importance of actively listening. It is tied to creating an environment of trust.

Make sure to ask questions and be prepared to act on their answers. Your team is the best source of knowledge when it comes to creating safe spaces in your company.

7) Monitor all communication channels

Creating safe spaces, both online and in-person means monitoring all communication channels. This includes text messages, emails, and digital chat rooms.

It’s important to be attentive to any inappropriate comments or language that could make someone feel uncomfortable.

Remind your team about the importance of speaking respectfully in all communication channels.

This also means paying attention to how members interact with each other both in-person and online. Encourage teammates to call each other out when they feel like someone is crossing a line.

If you want to create safe spaces, it’s important to monitor all communication channels and hold everyone accountable for their words and actions.

8) Hold team members responsible for their actions

Creating safe spaces means holding team members responsible for their words and actions. No one is above the law.

It means taking a stand against racism and sexism, even if it’s uncomfortable. It also means calling out any inappropriate behavior or language that could be seen as disrespectful.

Leaders need to set an example for their team by holding themselves accountable for their words and actions. This is especially true when it comes to creating safe spaces.

9) Celebrate diversity and be inclusive

Creating safe spaces means celebrating diversity and being inclusive. This means recognizing different cultures, lifestyles, and backgrounds within your team.

Be open to learning about different experiences and perspectives. Encourage teammates to share their stories in private or group settings.

This will help create a sense of belonging and help teammates feel respected.

10) Encourage open dialogue

The last tip for creating safe spaces is to encourage open dialogue. This means having honest conversations with your team about difficult topics like racism and sexism without feeling threatened or judged.

Encourage team members to speak up if they witness inappropriate behavior, language, or comments.

Create a space where everyone feels comfortable expressing their opinions and feelings without fear of consequences.

Creating safe spaces, both online and in-person is an important step in promoting diversity and inclusion within any organization. By following the tips outlined above, you can ensure that all members of your team feel respected, valued, and safe. And, that’s should be the goal of every organization.

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Dr. Colleen Batchelder
As a Leadership Strategist, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant, Executive Coach, and National Speaker, I help leaders create companies where Millennials and Generation Z want to work. My doctoral background in leadership and global perspectives also gives me an added edge because I approach generational dissonance from all directions, including from an anthropological, theological, sociological, and ethnographic lens.