Social safety at work: why does it matter?
Cliché, but… oh, so true: everybody wants to feel accepted and loved. Regardless of our backgrounds, us humans crave inclusion. And when it comes to work—the place where we spend most of our lives—that sense of belonging is essential to everyone.
At TOPdesk, we care deeply about all of our employees. They are the fabric of all of our culture and success, and we believe that without happy employees nothing would be possible. With these beliefs comes the responsibility to always keep educating ourselves on how to become better colleagues and humans. That’s why we invited Sexmatters to host two workshops—on Social Safety and Safer Space—during our Diversity and Inclusion week that took place at the end of October 2022.
Below, we chat with Sexmatters team member Juliënne Beijer about what makes safety at work such an important topic.
Hi, Juliënne! Could you tell us what Sexmatters is all about?
Sexmatters was founded to improve social inclusion in our society and prevent sexual harassment and sexual-and-gender-based violence. We started with giving workshops about gender, sexuality and consent, and have been doing that for the past 10 years. We started out with giving workshops to young people at schools, but 5 years ago we were asked to also give training about social safety and safer clubbing. So now we also give training to nightlife staff, companies and student associations about discrimination, racism, safe work environment and sexual harassment.
Why are these topics also important to discuss in the workplace?
Discrimination, social inclusion, and (sexual) harassment are topics that we see a lot in the workplace. And, more often than in other contexts, harassment at work occurs in small comments, jokes and questions. A lot of people don’t even notice how certain comments might exclude someone, and for others it’s a daily form of exclusion that they experience and have to deal with. This can lead to safe work environments for some, but very negative work environments for others. It’s important to learn from your colleagues and support each other so that everybody can enjoy going to work.
How can the work environment, if it’s not a safe space to gender-and-sexuality-diverse people, impede those people’s work progress, but also life in general?
Research shows that experiencing daily forms of discrimination and exclusion can lead to mental and physical health problems. In the workplace, this can lead to teams not being sustainable and colleagues calling in sick more often. We also know that the feeling of belonging in a team will decrease, which reduces the motivation and output.
Research shows that experiencing daily forms of discrimination and exclusion can lead to mental and physical health problems. In the workplace, this can lead to teams not being sustainable and colleagues calling in sick more often.
In what ways can all of us start to be more active regarding social safety and safe(r) spaces?
Take care of each other, ask your colleagues how they are if you notice a change in behaviour, support each other after difficult meetings or days, and check in if certain comments or jokes are okay for someone.
What’s the benefit of work being a safe(r) space for everyone? Both in terms of company growth and employee growth?
Work is a big part of the week, a lot of us spend more days at work than with our friends or family. Working in a safer space can give you the feeling of belonging somewhere and being comfortable with being yourself. For a company, this means that employees stay longer with the company, are more motivated and more honest in what they need and what they can give. A company can grow more steadily when the employees are truly seen, heard and acknowledged.
So, what next?
Regardless of your position at work, we recommend you find ways to learn more about this topic and keep educating yourself on how to make your colleagues feel safer at the workplace. Check out Sexmatters’ website to continue the conversation about this and other important topics.
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