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 comrady, 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.
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.
Learning how to create safe spaces takes time. It requires you to start from scratch and evaluate your own beliefs.
It’s not about wearing skinny jeans, eating avocado toast, or forcing your arms into a cuffed t-shirt.
You can be of any age and in any business sector. It’s not about presenting a cool look. Safe spaces are about adapting and adopting inclusive methods that benefit your team and make them feel valued
You have the tools to get started. Now, go and create a healthier and more productive work environment.