SNG Grant Thornton’s Neridha Moodley discusses prioritising psychological safety for the return to work

Return-to-work must be underpinned by psychological safety, which is high on SNG Grant Thornton’s agenda.

CHRO SA chatted to Neridha Moodley, the people and culture leader at SNG Grant Thornton, to discuss how the audit firm is preparing for the return to work while prioritising psychological safety in the workplace.

SNG Grant Thornton is determined to seize this opportunity to address the psychological safety and wellbeing of their staff to help them to feel less anxious and more empowered. Neridha believes this will result in increased workplace trust and engagement.

Neridha says there is pressure from colleagues in the organisation to want to return to the office, “We work in an auditing firm and the majority of our people are young professionals. Since the commencement of the pandemic, they have been more or less confined to their homes, some don’t really have proper office work spaces in their homes and are working on their beds and also don’t have the ability to socialise with their peers.”

With SNG Thornton having more than 1,300 employees in South Africa, when the time finally comes for their employees to go back to work, they are looking at rotating days in the office for the different teams. They cannot take everyone back at once as this would be in contravention of government regulations.

Neridha says there are teams that work on various assignments, “and we thought that at least once a week, each team could come into the office on a rotational basis. We will also ensure that the work premises are conducive to work in and have the necessary safety protocols and guidelines stipulated by the government in place.”

She adds that there is a small percentage of people who are not ready to go back into the office to work yet, because some people do enjoy the convenience and comfort of working from home.

“At this point we have told everyone to continue to work from home until we see the number of infections coming down. Even when we do go back and things normalise, we are still considering allowing people the leeway to work from home on a hybrid model basis subject to an appropriate set of policies supporting the model. However, we will have to monitor their productivity on a regular basis. If we find that key deliverables/work are not completed on time (the productivity is low), we will have to request them to return to the office,” she says.

The link between the return to work and psychological safety
Neridha explains that the issue of returning to work is closely bound to the issue of psychological safety which is very high on the company’s agenda. “While SNG Grant Thornton is still finding its feet on the issue of psychological safety, as are most organisations, there are certain things we have agreed on.”

One of the first things they will be starting with is psychological safety coaching. “Coaching is very important to us because we have realised that people don’t necessarily dialogue well in organisations.”

Neridha says she has attended an exceptional coaching course which was run by Grant Thornton International and wants to share all she has learnt with her team, “We have learnt to look at things from other people’s perspectives, which is not something we do. Often times we dialogue to give a response and the response is based on what we think.”

In these courses, cohorts comprising exco members, managers, and directors will be combined in one session where the principles of coaching will be shared, and practical coaching sessions will be facilitated. Neridha explains that they are doing this purposefully because the ability to dialogue is a common issue across the organisation and is not just limited to a specific grouping.

SNG Grant Thornton has also partnered with the wellness service provider ICAS, which provides them with webinars on psychological safety, diversity and inclusion, gender-based violence and mental health awareness.

Neridha adds that the key element of psychological safety is around educating the whole organisation and not just a single level or grouping in the organisation.

“Psychological safety has a lot to do with how you interact and dialogue with the people you are responsible for. Also, understanding that the pandemic is worsening and the way people interact virtually, you need to be more conscious about how you dialogue.”

SNG Grant Thornton, with the guidance and direction of GT International, is also looking at a set of indices they will use to measure whether the initiatives they have put in place are working or not for both their local and global communities.