Stress is a feature of most modern workplaces but, by giving our employees the tools to start actively building resilience, we can help them cope much better with its negative effects.
Resilience can make all the difference between a happy, healthy workforce and one that is demoralised and unproductive. And so, it is important that managers, HR teams and individuals themselves know how to pick up on the early warning signs of stress and mental strain, and apply the correct training and coping strategies to foster strength and wellbeing.
A recent set of surveys by CIPHR found that nearly a quarter of UK adults said that work, in general, causes them stress and 1 in 14 UK adults feel stressed every single day. Described as “one of the great public health challenges of our time” by the Stress Management Society, chronic stress has links to anxiety, depression, insomnia, heart disease, digestive problems, and a weakened immune system.
Occupational stress is a serious workplace issue and can have a huge impact on staff morale, employee turnover, and individual mental health.
Having resilience means being able to bounce back after a setback or challenging event, and perhaps even reframing it to see a silver lining. It's all about cultivating a positive mindset, so when challenges appear - which they inevitably will - their effects are limited and short-lived.
Although some people are naturally more resilient than others, it's mostly a skill we can learn. Think of it like a set of internal mental and emotional muscles, the more we exercise these the stronger they become. And, reportedly, the better our self-esteem and confidence too!
Cultivating resilience in the face of adversity is an important life skill if we are to grow and thrive. As Alain de Botton says: "A good half of the art of living is resilience."
Workplace negativity directly impacts an employee's performance and ability to do their job: stress affects one’s creativity, problem-solving capabilities and energy levels. Stress can even cause physical and mental illness, resulting in time needed off work.
It's estimated that in 2019/2020 around 17.9 million working days were lost due to stress, anxiety and depression in the UK. With a global pandemic following shortly after, it's likely this figure will have increased significantly. Sudden change, fear of job loss, fear of ill health, working from home, and being isolated from one's friends and family undoubtedly had a massive impact on the nation's wellbeing. An event like this demonstrates the importance of resilience, and the power in cultivating it – in the workplace and beyond.
According to Positive Psychology: "Resilient employees are able to manage stress effectively so it is not overwhelming and detrimental (Davis Laak, 2014)." They're more able to see past an obstacle and turn challenges into positives. Which is both much better for business and much better for individual wellbeing.
1️⃣ To build resilience we must first get to know ourselves. This means knowing our personal limits, when to push ourselves, and giving ourselves enough space and time to reflect on our thoughts and feelings (to understand the former two points better). A mindfulness practice is the best way to achieve this – taking a few minutes of regular, quiet observation of the self and our internal landscape can help us understand ourselves better and build mental resilience.
2️⃣ Another important part of being resilient is working out what your "why" is in life. Finding purpose helps contextualise any negative or challenging events and creates a strong sense of motivation. A good place to start when it comes to finding meaning in our work is to ask ourselves: how does my work connect me to other people? And how can my work be an expression of my values?
3️⃣ And finally, you will have heard this one before but doing what we can to stay physically healthy (by eating well and incorporating some regular movement into your routine) is vital. If we feel low on a physical level, this will be mirrored on a mental and emotional level. Sleep is, of course, critical too. If we face stressful events feeling well rested, as well as mentally and physically strong, chances are we can tackle them much better.
A key part of maintaining resilience is having strong relationships with other people, both at work and at home.
Having someone to talk to about your day really helps diffuse any stress or negative emotions. Having colleagues with whom you have a good rapport makes any strain easier to bear. If you have to tackle a situation alone, you'll inevitably feel more vulnerable.
Resilient employees are usually those who have strong social networks and feel connected to others. This is especially true when a sudden 'black swan' event strikes - such as ill health, a job loss or the recent pandemic - when we need to adapt quickly. That's when the value of human contact and a back-up system can suddenly be made very apparent.
Resilience training is a key part of any employee wellbeing programme. Companies could consider offering mindfulness activities, confidence workshops, meditation sessions, yoga classes, gym memberships, social events and emotional support throughout an employee's career. They could also offer flexible and healthier working hours. These are just some of the ways companies can help develop more resilient employees.
If you'd like to learn more about building resilience in your company or business, we offer a variety of services that may help you.