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Company culture

Workplace Hierarchy of Needs: Safety in the workplace

February 14, 2023

Employees want more than just a place to work—they want to feel fulfilled in the work they do and safe doing that work. Our first post looked at what organizations need to build into their workplaces to create a solid foundation for their employees.

This is the second part of our Workplace Hierarchy of Needs series. We’re breaking down what successful organizations do right to create a happy and fulfilled workforce.

Employees want more than just a place to work—they want to feel fulfilled in the work they do and safe doing that work. Our first post looked at what organizations need to build into their workplaces to create a solid foundation for their employees.

Providing a competitive salary, paid time off, and showing employees that you respect them inside and outside the workplace are foundational to building a great workplace. Still, more work is needed to make your workplace culture safe for your employees.

Creating a physically, emotionally, and psychologically safe culture allows employees to be their authentic selves at work. This sense of safety is critical to improving not just culture but productivity, performance, and profitability.

Nailing the basics isn’t enough 

You’re paying your employees a living wage and ensuring they have time off to relax or care for themselves and their families. Now you decided it’s time for an appreciation gift for your team. But the reaction you get when your employees pick up their gift isn’t what you were expecting. Instead of an excited thank you, your employees are returning their gifts to their desks or workspaces and going about their day.

You most likely chose a great gift that is significant to your employees and your business, but it fell flat. 

So what went wrong? 

Before you can start recognizing and appreciating your employees, your workplace has to be safe and comfortable.

6 Things that make a safe workplace

It’s crucial to ensure that your employees feel safe at work. Safety isn’t limited to physical security like locked doors or keycard access. Workplace safety includes making sure your employees can work and move about without the potential for harm.

Have properly functioning furniture

This one should go without saying, but providing your employees with functioning desks, worktables, stools, chairs, and other furniture is table stakes for creating a safe workplace. Broken drawers, chipped surfaces, and damaged chairs can potentially lead to workplace accidents and injuries.


Functioning furniture does more than keep productivity up, too—it helps show your employees that you value their safety.

Use ergonomics to create a comfortable workplace

Ergonomics usually brings to mind odd-shaped keyboards and diagrams showing what height a computer monitor should be set. But those examples are the tip of the iceberg when making a great workplace. Across many European countries, cashiers at supermarkets don’t stand at the checkouts. Instead, they’re seated at the till as they scan your items.


The same logic should apply to every workplace—use layouts and furniture that create a comfortable environment for your employees to do their best work. 

Have everything your employees need in a workplace

You have a lunch or break room for your employees to eat their meals, but do you have the other facilities that your employees need to complete their workdays? These facilities could include showers, locker rooms, and bike storage for employees who commute by bicycle.


Creating a physically safe workplace

Workplace safety is serious business, whether it’s OSHA in the U.S. or CCOHS in Canada. Making health and safety information available—including your health and safety team’s contact information—helps everyone in the workplace make safety a priority.


Treat people with respect

Stories of excessive heat in delivery vehicles or workers not having time to use the washroom are almost a daily occurrence. Workplace safety means treating employees with respect and ensuring their physical safety. Work has to get done, but not treating employees with care because a quota might get missed only leads to disenfranchised workers and workplace accidents.


Workplace safety at home

Even if your team is hybrid or remote, it is still an employer’s responsibility to create a safe workplace. Organizations do this today through stipends to cover home office furniture or equipment like external monitors. Another way organizations can help is to provide a secure way for employees to report unsafe working conditions such as abuse or bullying. These actions are sadly not restricted to being in the same physical location. Giving your employees a way to reach out and get help is critical.


More than physical safety

Workplace safety is more than physical safety. Organizations with space for employees to be authentic are more successful at retaining great employees and attracting new talent. Enabling your employees to be their authentic selves at work means aligning who they are with their actions in the workplace.

Equity, diversity, and inclusion

Organizations recognize that equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) are important topics at work, but putting those topics and learnings into action takes consistent effort and accountability. It’s not enough to bring in an EDI facilitator for a workshop. Leaders need to look at how they structure everything from the text in a job posting and how hiring committees are formed to what tools are in place for employees to report racist, homo or transphobic, or sexist actions or comments in the workplace.

Express themselves

There was a time when visible tattoos at work were taboo, but today’s workplaces celebrate self-expression. Today, personal expression through tattoos, hair colour, and clothing is welcomed and celebrated. Ensuring your workplace is one where expression is welcome will help make your employees feel safe and ready to do their best work.Our next post in this series will look at what employers can do to foster open and transparent communication in the workplace.

Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

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