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What is Resilience and How Can I Improve It?

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September 29, 2020

Resilience looks different for different people. Each of us encounter different situations at different times that determine how we move through life. Whether you’re facing something in your personal life or at work, adapting to adversity can occur at varying times with varying strengths. Our working environment can play an integral role in improving the resilience of an individual.

What is resilience?

Resilience is the ability to evolve from an experience. Commonly confused with putting a lid on life’s challenges, the healthy way to recover from and adjust to challenging events is in building and using our resilience.

Resilience comes in many forms. Predominantly it’s found in social support, personal attributes and our biological makeup. As social creatures, humans are born and raised to come together in communities, families and work groups. Collectively, this forms our social support. Whilst our self-belief, courage, positivity and confidence define the personal attribute element of our resilience. Whereas our biological makeup is the autonomic nervous system we are born with, and evolves with us over time.  

While daily stressors from relationship problems, to financial worries can cause an individual to become sensitive and emotionally unbalanced, being resilient means being able to recover and function effectively after stress, without it negatively impacting one’s emotions and internal motivation. Resilient individuals use positive emotions to recover from stressful experiences and buffer against stress. Neuroscience research suggests this can be learned.

Positive emotions

What are the benefits of resilience?

The benefits of resilience include:

  • Enhanced productivity and performance
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Helps to focus on strengths and protect against mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety 
  • Enhanced physical health 
  • Increased energy, motivation and alertness
  • Improved ability to form trusting relationships
  • Reduces the likelihood of experiencing burnout

How does a resilient workforce help my business?

Based on data and insights within a business, you may find areas with low scores. If your workforce’s data presents highs in anxiety and mood, you might find the building of resilience useful.

A ‘Can-Do’ Attitude – When a problem or challenge arises at work, those with stronger resilience will take a different approach. The challenge may still feel like a hurdle, but instead of facing it with the idea they may fail, they’ll approach it head on and in the best way they can. Better Communication – A resilient mindset enables us to feel empowered when taking action and communicating with colleagues. Our mental strength comes from within however it is an external power. 

Reduced Burnout – Presenteeism and burnout increases when our mental strength is low and we’re less agile to stress and pressure. With stronger resilience our minds are able to adapt, switch off and focus on what needs doing without burning out. 

Expectations are Managed – The higher and stronger our resilience, the better we are at understanding and setting expectations for ourselves. We are able to think and see clearly without being unrealistic about what we can or what others can achieve. 

Self-Care is Prioritised – At Everymind, we believe looking after our mental health should not be seen as a luxury within the workplace. Rather it is something that should be taken seriously and treated as a priority. The more resilient we are, the stronger are to be able to speak up about what we need and act on it. 

Improved Performance – Strength in resistance helps reset our mindset to a positive one, which helps with productivity and our overall performance. In turn this improves overall business results and success. 

Growth is Prioritised – Internal development opportunities are more readily taken up. With a stronger resilient mind, a growth mindset is adopted and individuals feel as though they want to learn. 

Growth

How can I make my workforce more resilient?

We’ve touched on how resilience can help your employees but you’re now probably wondering how you can integrate this into your workplace. 

There are different types of resilience; the type we’re born with known as natural resilience, the type we develop through ‘put the fire out’ scenarios, known as adaptive resilience, and lastly the type we learn through therapies and behaviour patterns from our childhood, this is known as restored resilience.

In the workplace, to help with struggles such as anxiety, depression, stress and low mood, you’re looking to build adaptive resilience. You may already be doing certain things to help support, facility and engage resilience building however here are some things you may wish to consider:

Encourage Collaboration

Previously, we spoke about resilience residing in our social support. This can come from many sources and as we spend most of our days at work, the social support we get within the workplace is important to our wellbeing. Part of an individual’s resilience comes from the social support we have from those around us, whether that be family, friends or colleagues. Considering the amount of time we each spend at work, it is important we get social support from their managers, teams and colleagues.

Promote Teamwork 

Does your business currently work together collaboratively? Think creatively about how your business can come together both within and between departments. Teamwork should be encouraged as it not only improves productivity, it also develops interpersonal relationships. Closer bonds help to develop a healthier mind in times of struggle or stress. 

Promote Social Interaction 

Encourage social interactions outside of the office environment by running volunteering programs that colleagues can attend together or host social lunches and after work meetups. We all need to let our hair down from time to time and this opens up for stronger relationships which builds our self belief leading to improved resilience.

Create An Open Environment

Promote open door policies when it comes to needing help. No senior should be inaccessible to an employee who comes asking in a time of need. By creating an open environment employees are encouraged to speak up and ask for what they need. 

Set Effective Goals

Goal setting is a skill that is built on and developed over time. As with learning any new skill, starting small and maintaining practice is the key to building your capabilities. Over time this increases the likelihood of success. Supporting individuals and teams helps to build the resilience of your workforce as a collective, as well as their individual confidence. Goals must be obtainable and reflect the values of the individual and the organisation.

Goal setting

Set SMART Goals

SMART goals are monitored by the following: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound. All goals within the business whether individual or collectively should be revised with the above. Goals give us something as individuals to work towards and without an end insight we can become bleary eyed on how we’re developing. Goals can be small or large, and should complement the values of your business. 

Set Both Short-Term (<6 months) and Long-Term (>12 months) Goals

Like anything in life, long-term goals don’t always happen. Life throws curveballs and before we know it we’re on a different path. By setting long term and short term goals, we have a destination to aim for with smaller, measurable goals in between. This not only keeps us on our path but enables us to achieve greater goals and builds our confidence and resilience. 

Regularly Track Progress

In the same way we want to know how long is left on a long car ride, it’s good to know how we’re progressing on our career goals too. Regular meetings should be a priority so that employees can be briefed on the progress they’re making. Constructive criticism is good, providing they know what they’re doing well alongside where they can develop. 

Encourage Physical Well Being

It is known that our physical well being supports our mental well being. It helps to buffer negative effects of stress and anxiety making an individual more resilient to adversity. Physical health can too be facilitated and promoted within the workplace by educating, supporting and offering the like to all employees. The healthier our body the stronger our immune system which promotes positive overall wellbeing and aids our mental abilities.

Ban Unhealthy Snacks

Unhealthy snacks have very little benefit when it comes to our mental well being. The sugar rush feels great at the time, but the crash after does not. Encourage healthy eating by providing fruit or refined sugar free snacks. Check with your benefit provider, they may provide healthy lunch vouchers that you can advertise around the office for employees to make use of. 

Promote Exercise 

Physical exercise promotes focus and productivity whilst decreasing presenteeism. As an employer you can support the benefits of physical exercise by promoting local events or classes that employees can attend. If your team is working on site, installing showers and washing facilities can be a huge benefit in getting employees to exercise before work or during lunch. Team challenges in the form of walking or running groups at lunch can also be very encouraging for those who find it hard to motivate themselves with working out. 

Employers can offer support for unhealthy behaviours such as smoking and irresponsible alcohol use, and lead by example if you can. Depending on your benefits package, as an employer you could offer counselling support or change the drinking culture of your company. 

Promote a Positive Workplace 

A negative workspace can fast become a toxic environment that employees resent and choose not to go to. Making the workplace a positive and happy environment sees a reduction in stress levels and promotes positive mental health, making employees more equipped to deal with stress and anxiety during trying and challenging moments.

Positive

Effective Leadership

Effective leadership has a domino effect within your business. Leadership combines goal setting, stress management and practising celebration. By promoting an open and trusting management style and atmosphere you’re encouraging employees to do the same throughout their career with you, and beyond. 

Improve Communication

Communication is important for us to feel secure at work. Large-scale restructuring is inevitable in many businesses, however change can be difficult to adapt too. Our adaptability is dependable on how resilient we are however feeling blindsided by big news and business change is enough to throw even the most adaptable off track. Ensure business communication is regular and inclusive of all employees. 

Vary Jobs and Skill Sets

It’s easy to become complacent at work if we feel our job has little room for growth or development. Variety adds depth to our job and gives us new challenges to work on and helps us to build a strong mindset to change and growth. Implement L&D programmes or coaching and mentoring that trains staff in new skills relevant to their jobs. These could also include well being topics on how to cope with stress, anxiety and depression as individuals. Not only does this promote the value your business puts on mental well being, it enables your employees to work intrinsically too. 

Be Fair

As the saying goes, ‘fair but firm’. It’s important to be a manager and not a friend to your employees. Whilst it is good to set goals and deadlines, it’s also healthy to allow a certain amount of autonomy and let individuals do their jobs in their own way. 

Work-life balance is important in maintaining good quality mental well being, in all of us. Flexible working arrangements reflect well on employee well being and overall happiness at work. Along with offering small rewards for good work, employees feel valued and want to strive to do better.

Provide Specialist Support

At times, employees may need specialist support with their physical or mental health for their overall well being. This might be through therapy, GP appointments or physiotherapy. Through occupational health, employers can support and promote this. A basic benefits package may already offer some of the following, and where there are gaps, extras can be implemented. Here are some helpful tips for you to consider. 

Educate Management

Educate and train managers to consider the mental wellbeing of their staff. Seniors and line management are not expected to be experts in their field however basic knowledge is helpful in assisting employees through stressful periods. 

Promote Your Benefits 

Does your business have an EAP? Employee assistance programs and designed to protect employees but chances are your employees are aware it exists within your organisation. Think about what financial advice, medical insurance or medical cash plans your business offers to employees and share this information across the business. 

Educate

Create A Well Being Forum 

In the same way we look to social circles during times of need, we can do so with our colleagues. Whilst our social circles help to develop our resistance, a well being forum with ‘Well Being Champions’ is a safe space for employees to talk with each other, rather than their manager or teams. The dynamics of the group would be company specific however a great start would be for the champions to take ownership for the creation of wellbeing solutions. By taking volunteers from across the whole business, it’s a great way of creating buy-in across all departments that are colleague-led and not implemented by senior management.

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