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Bravely News

Mental health is Google’s secret to creating a high-performing team, and three things to improve yours

by Jamie Gundaya

What makes a high-performing team? Google dug deep in a study called Project Aristotle and uncovered the secret.

It’s not enough to have great people in a team. Rather, a great team is great because of how the team members interact, structure their work, and view their contributions.

They identified the five key dynamics as follows:

  1. Psychological safety – Do team members feel safe to take risks and be vulnerable?
  2. Dependability – Does the team get things done on time and with high quality?
  3. Structure & Clarity – Are there clear roles, plans, and goals?
  4. Meaning – Do the team members find their work personally important?
  5. Impact – Do the team members think their work matters and impacts change?

Among the five, they found that psychological safety is far more important than the others. In fact, it should be the foundation of a high-performing team.

Psychological safety is the shared belief that it’s safe to speak up, share creative ideas, discuss concerns, and address conflict within the team.

This is important in any team, but can be extra important for remote teams where you can’t physically see and check up on your team any time in the day.

By building a foundation of psychological safety, you’re also helping your team with their mental health and overall, a happy team is a productive team.

Our co-founder Mel believes it’s important to lay that foundation in remote teams. She discussed how she does this in a podcast with Building Remotely about supporting your remote team’s mental health.

Lay Down The Groundwork for a High-Performing Team

90% of remote workers want mental health support, but only 69% feel their employers are doing enough. With 93% of employers believing they’re providing enough mental health support for their team, it’s fair to say there’s a huge disconnect.

Mel says in the podcast: “The very first thing is to lay down the groundwork.”

This means building a culture where every person on the team feels safe to speak up or say something.

Even if you tell them every day that, “Hey, if there’s any issues you can speak up,” but without creating an environment where they feel safe to do so, they won’t say anything.

Here’s two things Mel does to build a sense of psychological safety among her team:

“When someone says something, really listen”

Don’t just tell them that you’ll listen, but instead you end up telling them what they should do, how they should feel, or what your experience (with a situation that may not even be remotely close!) was like.

“Don’t hijack the conversation. Actually sit down and listen to them.”

“Be transparent and brave enough”

Set an example by being honest and open about your own mental health around them.

This doesn’t mean showing up crying or with big emotions. Vulnerability can be simple as being able to come in and say, “Hey. I’ve had a hard time last week so I’m taking a day off for a much needed mental health day.”

Seeing their boss or leader take a mental health day because they need one would reinforce the idea they can do the same thing.

Start Conversations Regularly

The second thing Mel does is to initiate these conversations regularly. Most of the time, your team will look at you and think, ‘Alright. They have a lot of things on their plate. I don’t want to burden them with my issues’.

They’d think maybe they should just keep it to themselves or discuss it with close colleagues and friends. However, if their concerns are related to work, it wouldn’t address the issue.

It would continue to affect them and it would be a missed opportunity to improve the way your team operates.

As a leader, you can start that conversation and listen. It may be uncomfortable for either side but it will pay off. They’re going to feel it’s safe to open up, knowing they will be heard and their concerns will be addressed.

Providing Mental Health Resources For Your Team

Nurturing a sense of psychological safety is step one in supporting your team’s mental health. Other forms of support workers want include mental health coverage in their insurance, access to therapy or counseling, and knowledge or information they can use to incorporate mental hygiene and therapy skills in their daily lives.

Supporting Your Remote Team

Creating a work dynamic that has psychological safety requires a leader to lay down the groundwork, start conversations, and make mental health resources available.

When team members feel safe, heard, and valued, collaboration improves and the overall quality of work improves as well. The other key dynamics, identified by Project Aristotle, naturally follow: dependability, structure and clarity, meaning, and impact. All in all, this creates a high-performing team.

You can learn more about the other ways you can support your team’s mental health through the full podcast and transcription here.


If you’re looking for a mental wellbeing solution for your remote team, get in touch with us to learn more about Bravely for businesses.

Written By

Jamie Gundaya

Jamie, based in the Philippines, is Bravely’s Social Media & CMS Support. She’s passionate about making mental health resources more accessible, analyzing human interaction, great food, and great music.

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