When your team feels safe at work, they may be more likely to participate in team building activities such as yoga in the office.

I take great pride in the work I do as a corporate yoga instructor. I love seeing people’s faces as I lead them through a gentle Chair Yoga practice that helps melts tension away from their neck and shoulders. It’s such a privilege to hold space for those who are doing their best to make an honest living while striving for work-life synergy and making their health a priority.

I’m often contracted to teach by someone in a leadership role who may not spend their days with their subordinates. Their hope is that offering yoga will help their team feel special and give the leader an opportunity to connect with them. Sometimes the yoga practice does the trick and I’m invited to hang out after class to continue communing with everyone. However, there have been a few times when leadership was surprised at the low attendance because they were convinced that ‘yoga in the office’ would bring the team together despite their working relationships, company culture or team dynamic.

Research supports the effectiveness of yoga, especially for busy professionals. I’ll be the first to tell any leader that yoga in the office is a fun, engaging and cost-effective way to boost employee morale. Nonetheless, if your team does not feel safe at work, if there is something lacking in the team dynamic or your company culture needs improvements, the likelihood of employees participating in yoga or any other extracurriculars, is slim to none. This is because feeling safe at work, referred to as psychological safety, is a prerequisite for such activities and especially for yoga in the office.

The Connection Between Psychological Safety and Yoga in the Office

So, as much as I love to teach yoga for employee wellness, I can’t talk about yoga in the workplace without acknowledging the need for psychological safety in the workplace. In some cases, separating the two is just piling on the perks – free lunches, gym memberships, yoga in the office, etc. – without addressing the root cause of why a company thinks adding yoga for the employees is necessary…and wondering what else they’ve been doing to make improvements to their company culture.

What is Psychological Safety?

Psychological safety refers to the shared belief within a group or team that it is safe to take interpersonal risks without fear of negative consequences. It is an essential aspect of a healthy and productive work environment. When employees feel psychologically safe, they are more likely to speak up, share ideas, take risks, and collaborate effectively.

In my teaching experience, when psychological safety is fostered, employees find it easier to relax, hold space for vulnerability during their yoga practice, share reflections with each other after the practice and even keep their cameras on for virtual gatherings.

Yoga is sacred and it can be intimidating for new students – combine that with workplace discord and attendance is bound to be low.

How can Leaders Foster Psychological Safety?

To foster psychological safety in the workplace, leaders can:

  • Lead by example and demonstrate vulnerability, sensitivity and openness
  • Encourage and reward collaboration, idea-sharing, and risk-taking
  • Provide constructive feedback and create opportunities for growth and development
  • Establish clear communication channels and facilitate open dialogue
  • Support diversity, equity, access and inclusion initiatives
  • Prioritize team building and relationship-building activities
  • Create policies and guidelines that promote respect, inclusivity, and empathy regardless of one’s place on the org chart

What Questions Should Leaders Consider Asking to Foster Psychological Safety?

Leaders should consider the following questions (this is not an exhaustive list by any means!) as a starting point to engage in meaningful conversations with their team about psychological safety:

  1. Do you feel comfortable sharing your ideas, even if they differ from someone else’s opinions?
  2. Are you confident that your feedback and suggestions are valued and considered seriously?
  3. Do you believe you can admit mistakes without fear of harsh consequences?
  4. Do you feel encouraged to take calculated risks and propose innovative solutions?
  5. Have you witnessed instances where team members have supported each other in times of difficulty?
  6. Do you feel you can approach your supervisor with concerns or problems without fear of negative repercussions?
  7. Have you observed leaders and team members actively seeking diverse perspectives and valuing different viewpoints?
  8. Do you feel that your personal well-being is considered a priority within the team?
  9. Have you experienced a sense of inclusion and belonging within the team?
  10. Are there opportunities for open dialogue and discussion during team meetings?

Fostering psychological safety at work is an ongoing process, but leaders can begin to see positive ripple effects as soon as they create space to have these conversations.

When your team feels safe at work, they may be more likely to participate in team building activities such as yoga in the office.

Check out this helpful resource for more information about psychological safety.