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Barbara Nestor

Director of Group Culture Transformation and Internal Communications, Bank of Ireland

Creating a psychologically safe environment within the workplace sits at the core of employee wellbeing.

Making a safe environment involves establishing a culture where colleagues feel they can speak about challenges they face, either personally or professionally and raise issues that could influence working practices. Managers have a critical role in creating this environment for their teams.

Changing workplace

The changing workplace landscape created by lockdowns and the post-pandemic working environment has underlined the importance of psychological safety and employee wellbeing.

During the pandemic, as lines between personal and professional lives became blurred, Bank of Ireland adopted the “4 W’s” Wellbeing, Workspace, Working Day and Workload as the foundation of its wellbeing programme.

“If one item is not working, it impacts the others and over a sustained period can have a detrimental impact on our physical, mental and financial wellbeing,” adds Barbara Nestor, who is the bank’s Director of Group Culture and Internal Communications.

“If you are not fit and healthy in your personal life, you are not going to be mentally or physically well in the workplace and that will impact on engagement and performance.”

If you are not fit and healthy in your personal life, you are not going to be mentally or physically well in the workplace and that will impact on engagement and performance.

Wellbeing culture starts with leaders and managers 

Nestor sets out: “As leaders and managers, it is down to us to create a psychologically safe environment where team members feel like they can speak about their own wellbeing, particularly in a hybrid working environment.

“At Bank of Ireland, we encourage leaders to be more open in sharing their own experience and vulnerabilities. This helps foster a culture of psychological safety, which over time means leaders will be much more ‘tuned in’ and empathic to what their people are experiencing and how that can impact on them either positively or negatively.

“Thinking about the ‘4 W’s’ helps line managers develop their skill sets so that they are better equipped and able to care for their teams. and exemplify psychological safety in their behaviours.

“We’ve rolled out a series of practical sessions to support managers. In April 2021, we ran ‘Show We Care’ which was attended by 80% of managers and examined mental health. This was followed by a session on managing stress and preventing burnout, with a forthcoming activity looking at a personal assessment of workplace wellbeing.

“Wellbeing is for everybody, but if our managers are not fit and healthy, they cannot look out for their own teams’ wellbeing,” says Nestor.

“You have to have a psychologically safe environment to have a culture of wellbeing, and if employees are fit and healthy and enjoying work, they will perform better which inevitably leads to better outcomes for customers, for colleagues, and for the company as a whole.”

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