How HR helps you create a safe and inclusive workplace

As a business owner or employer, how often do you think about whether your workplace is a safe one or not?

Safety and inclusivity in the workplace

When we say safety in the workplace, we don’t just mean occupational safety, either. Safety in a work environment goes beyond adhering to OHS standards. It also involves psychological and mental safety—that is, how mentally safe employees feel in a workplace.

Now more than ever, safe workplaces are an especially important topic as discrimination and harassment cases are on the rise, with nearly 1 in 3 workers experiencing discrimination and/or harassment at work in 2023 (Diversity Council Australia). We can’t understate the importance of having inclusive workplaces that make people safe. Studies like this one show that toxic or unsafe workplaces impact employees’ overall health and well-being, often at the expense of the employer.

In this article, we’ll tackle what it means to have a safe and inclusive workplace and why it’s important for people to feel empowered at work. We’ll also look at what employers and managers can do to create workplaces that are free from discrimination and harassment.


Why is it important for people to feel safe and empowered in the workplace?

The workplace is where most of us spend the majority of our time each day. Whether your employees work in an office or remotely, it’s important to make sure that the environment they spend a third of their day in is a safe one. When employees feel safe, they are more likely to feel empowered, trusted, valued, and supported in their work.

As HR professionals, we see first-hand how a positive working environment impacts how employees work. Here are four common advantages we often see in our clients who have created a safe workplace:

  1. Employee well-being is enhanced. In terms of mental health , feeling safe at work can reduce stress and anxiety. This contributes to better mental health—and a safe environment can reduce the risk of physical injuries and related health issues.
  2. Productivity and performance are also affected. Empowered employees are more motivated, efficient, and more likely to be innovative.
  3. Having a safe workplace is a sign of a positive workplace culture Safety and empowerment play an important role in building a culture of trust and mutual respect in the workplace. Employees who feel safe and valued are more likely to be loyal and committed to the organisation.
  4. Safe workplaces attract and retain top talent. According to Recruiting Daily, potential applicants are more drawn to workplaces that demonstrate their commitment to safety. A survey by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) revealed that company culture was the number one reason why candidates choose one job over another. This survey found that this is especially true among younger workers, who tend to place a higher emphasis on company culture than any generation before them.


What can make employees feel disempowered or unsafe in the workplace?

There are several reasons why someone might feel unsafe at work.  In our experience, here are a few things to look out for:

  1. Absence of policies or workplace rules that protect employees’ health and safety. Nothing sends a clearer message to employees that you’re concerned about their welfare more than having policies intended for their safety in place. However, when there’s a lack of policies around promoting employee well-being, be it physical safety or otherwise, it sends the message that management doesn’t prioritise safety.Having a Bullying, Discrimination, and Harassment Policy, for example, clearly lays out which behaviours are considered harmful ones. This policy also outlines what employees should do in the event that any instance of bullying, harassment, or discrimination happens in the workplace, as well as the process that the company has in place for handling these kinds of complaints.
  2. Lack of clear communication and transparency from leadership. According to AlertMedia’s Employee Safety Report, transparent communication is the most requested and impactful way a business can make its employees feel safer. Employees look to their leaders and managers for direction in the workplace. Good communication – starting at the top – can motivate employees to be more productive and do their best. The opposite often happens when there’s poor communication and a lack of transparencyWithout clear communication, employees aren’t sure of what’s expected of them. When an employee is unsure about their role and responsibilities, they may begin doubting their own abilities and second-guessing their decisions at work. The flow-on effect can look like  less confidence and morale, and manifest as more stress and frustration.On that note, this can also lead to a lack of transparency which can disempower employees. A consistent lack of clear communication from leadership might lead employees to mistrust their managers or employers, especially when they feel that information is being withheld.
  3. Rigid hierarchy and micromanagement. A rigid hierarchy and micromanagement may limit employees’ autonomy and decision-making, which can lead to disempowerment. A study by Accountemps found that 59% of people have been managed by a micromanager at some point in their career. Of those people, 68% said that micromanagement decreased their morale, while 55% stated that it negatively impacted their productivity.
  4. Lack of growth and development opportunities. Many people thrive on growth and a sense of accomplishment, and this can be amplified when it comes to their career. The feeling of stagnating, or of not progressing, can lead to employees feeling disempowered.

A workplace that doesn’t make employees feel safe, or where they feel disempowered, is one that can suffer negative effects. If employees don’t feel like they have a voice or are valued, it can lead to a decline in employee engagement and morale, and sometimes even increased absenteeism and high turnover rates. Those are all effects that the business as a whole can suffer from.


What can employers do to empower their employees and build a safe and inclusive workplace?

Now that we’ve gone through the advantages of having a safe and healthy workplace, and also defined the most common reasons for a work environment not feeling empowering for employees, what’s next?

At Now Actually, we do our best to practise what we preach. Having a safe workplace for our employees, one where they can thrive both professionally and in a way that supports work-life balance, is important to us.

Being proactive is always the first step. Having to come up with reactive solutions on the fly when issues come up can be exhausting, time-consuming, and expensive. Proactive actions, such as ensuring there are avenues that employees can use to voice their feedback, goes a long way towards ensuring that your team knows their voices are and will be heard. This can be achieved via regular feedback surveys and having one-on-one check-in meetings.

Next, it could be worth conducting an audit of what policies you have at your organisation that promote employees’ health and safety, such as:

  1. Bullying, Discrimination, and Harassment Policy
  2. Grievance Procedure
  3. Occupational Health and Safety Policy

We regularly conduct reviews of these policies at Now Actually, and make changes when needed. Sometimes, we even add to our current set of policies when new legislation comes out—an example of this is the Right to Disconnect legislation.


In an ideal world, a company that has proactive measures set up to promote employee safety and empowerment won’t need to press the button on reactive ones. However, it’s a safe bet to say that there will likely be situations that would need a reactive response. There should always be proper procedures in place in the event that employees report that their safety is threatened in the workplace.

If you’re not sure of what needs to happen,  let Now Actually’s team of Advisers help. We can provide unbiased, expert assistance to get your workplace back on track. Contact our team now.

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