Why Safe & Caring Workplaces Outperform Their Competitors

BY Michelle McQuaid

While the productivity of many workplaces is struggling, new research suggests that building a culture of safety and care may be the antidote organizations need.

“When people believe that their workplace is ‘caring and safe’ it supercharges wellbeing, psychological safety, engagement, and performance and lowers the risks of burnout and psychosocial (social and emotional) hazards,” explained Dr Paige Williams, co-founder of The Leaders Lab and one of the partners in the new research. “Unfortunately, in Australia the number of workplaces perceived as ‘caring and safe’ has halved over the last twelve months dropping from 49.4% in 2022 to 20.7% in 2023.” 

The study of more than 1,000 randomly selected Australian workers found that workers who reported that their organization was ‘caring and safe’ were more likely to report their leaders, teams, and workplaces frequently expressed:

  • Compassion – they reached for curiosity rather than rushing to judgements when workers were struggling.
  • Appreciation – they communicated their appreciation for people’s work.
  • Responsibility – they held people accountable by providing constructive feedback.
  • Emotional Wisdom – they helped workers constructively navigate their emotions.

The researchers called this CARE.

“It’s important to note that the dosage of CARE mattered,” explained Paige. “Organizations that are perceived as ‘caring and safe’ are distinguished by the frequency of the care expressed by leaders, teams, and the workplace. This is achieved by integrating CARE practices into the organization rules, routines, and rituals and by leaders who consistently role model these behaviors.”

For example:

  • At the ‘Me’ level for individual role modelling:
    • Compassion: Hit Your Reset Button – Physical gestures can have an immediate calming effect on stress in our body. Place one hand over the opposite wrist and breathe slowly for at least seven seconds.
    • Appreciation: Turn A To-Do Into A Tah-Dah! – Choose one thing on your to-do list and note down a strength – something you are good at and enjoy doing- that you can apply to make this task more enjoyable and effective.
    • Responsibility: Remind Yourself “Not Yet” – Tune into the stories you tell yourself about what you can or can’t do. When you hear yourself say “I can’t,” add on the word “yet.” Remind yourself that you’re on a learning curve.
    • Emotional wisdom: Take A Joy Break – Take a moment to do something that genuinely brings a smile to your face (i.e. listen to a favorite song, watch a funny video, read poetry, take a quick nature walk). Try to be fully present in this moment and savor the joy.
  • At the ‘We’ level for teams:
    • Compassion: Get Curious – If you notice a team member struggling, ask: “What else may be happening for this person?” Reach out and ask – without blame or judgment – if everything is okay.
    • Appreciation: Give Strengths Feedback – Rather than saying “great job”, be specific about the strengths you saw someone use, the difference it made, and why it was appreciated.
    • Responsibility: Talk To People, Not About People – When issues arise, between team members, encourage them to speak to each other as soon as possible, rather than moaning and groaning to other team members.
    • Emotional wisdom: Invest In Favors – Encourage your team to spend five minutes each day helping someone else in their team or networks (i.e. share information, connect contacts, offer feedback, or make a recommendation that helps others).
  • At the ‘Us’ level for workplaces:
    • Compassion: Ask For Help – Hold a daily 10-minute stand-up meeting and ask: What did you work on yesterday? What are you working on today? And what help do you need?
    • Appreciation: Redesign Roles – Ask people: “How is your role aligned with your strengths? How can we make better use of your strengths? What support do you need to develop your strengths?”
    • Responsibility: Honor Your Commitments – Embed accountability as a cultural norm by making it a habit to ask in meetings: “How did you go doing what you said you were going do?”
    • Emotional wisdom: Embrace Fun – Laughter is a sign of safety and connection. Summer barbecues, crazy shirt days, holiday parties, etc. are chances to have fun and build cultural norms of belonging and care.

How is your workplace building a culture of safety and care?

To learn more about the study visit:

Quick tip:You can save this post to your favorites, so you can access it quickly and easily later! Just click the “Add to Favorites” button to save it forever. You can then find it later in My Toolbox -> My Favorites.

Free Leadership Toolkit

Supercharge safety, wellbeing, and performance for your team.

Download now

Free Leaders Survey Tool

Take our free five minute survey to minimize psychosocial risks and build on psychological safety

Learn More

Wellbeing Survey For Youth

Our free PERMAH Wellbeing Survey Tool For Youth is now available.

Learn More

Wellbeing Survey For Kids

Our FREE PERMAH Survey tool for Kids under 12 is now available.

Learn More


Listen to the world’s leading positive psychology researchers and practitioners as they share their insights on our top-rated podcast.

Listen Now


Do you want to help boost people’s wellbeing, resilience & performance? Then join us for the next round of Certificate In Creating Wellbeing.

Learn More