Workplace resilience is a topic that many leaders and HR professionals have been trying to wrap their head around for the longest time. There have been some suggestions and strategies that have proven to be the solution to build and improve resilience, and in fact every so often, there are new strategies that are also being introduced.
In my opinion, there is no one-solution-fits-all, and it never is a 'quick-fix' solution. It is a multi-faceted approach that HR and business leaders need to look into to effect sustainable change for the betterment of not just employees but the business.
This article puts together the different areas that contribute to workplace resilience, and what you could possibly do to improve that.
What is Resilience?
The Oxford dictionary defines resilience as “the capacity to withstand, or to recover quickly from difficulties” . There is a certain element of toughness to being resilient and I call it mental toughness, and some others might refer to it as grit.
The American Psychological Association defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress” .
Difficulties and challenges in life contribute to the levels of stress that one might feel. Resilience can then also mean to have the mental capacity and fortitude to overcome stressors (experienced through the difficulties and challenges), and coming out stronger and wiser.
There has been a plethora of research done over the decades that tells us that resilience is built by mindset, attitudes, actions, support from the community, and past experiences from having overcome other challenges in life. This means that personal resilience is a skill that can be cultivated and trained, as long as we possess that awareness and intention to learn to adopt tools to allow for this betterment to take place.
The above explanation of personal resilience is used as a general definition for an individual. But what about workplace resilience? How is that different? Can we apply the same strategies and concepts in building resilience for an individual, to that of building workplace resilience?
Workplace resilience is the ability of an employee to be able to undertake work-related stress and to overcome that stress, to continue to deliver on responsibilities, with little or no compromise on productivity and efficiency.
In this aspect, it is the same as personal resilience. When there is pressure or an obstacle experienced at work, in our personal capacity we are able to bite the bullet and emerge victorious after.
The reality of life is that an individual often is also experiencing non-work related stress and this combination and effort to compartmentalise work versus non-work resilience, could potentially bring on even more stress for the employee.
Some would argue that because the “beneficiary” of this victory is not (just) for the individual, it can be a lot more difficult to bear and therefore would require a different set of strategies for it to be a win-win situation for not just the individual but also the employer.
The scope, scale and speed of work has drastically increased over the decades. With the increase of use of technology and now AI, there has also been added pressure for an employee to accomplish more with a quicker turnaround. Hyperconnectivity on various devices also causes work-related stress to encroach into the non-work hours that employees need to unwind, reset and recharge, resulting in higher stress experienced. This directly points to employees requiring greater resilience to remain relevant.
According to Aon’s The Rising Resilient report , even though employee wellbeing programmes have been of significant focus since the pandemic, only about 30 percent of employees are resilient. The report found that 42 percent of employees do not feel safe and secure in their jobs, 52 percent do not feel a sense of belonging, and 55 percent do not feel that they can reach their potential.
The demands of responsibilities are increasing more rapidly than the resilience threshold or ability of the employee to handle stress. This is the problem that we need to address with workplace resilience. We need to equip and empower the workforce with the necessary tools to develop and improve on workplace resilience.
Wellbeing is directly related to resilience, so we have first of all listed the necessary wellbeing strategies to strengthen workplace resilience, followed by the accompanying wellbeing tools you could engage to achieve the outcome of better workplace resilience.
How do we build Workplace Resilience?
It is important to understand that resilience is not just confined to the personal space or workplace. Resilience follows us everywhere we go and that lack of it, also does mean that it is not present where and when we need it.
Specific to the workplace, here are some wellbeing strategies to consider.
Provide a Supportive environment
Employers and organisations need to be able to provide, or create a supportive environment for workplace resilience to thrive. This includes being able to not just allow for physical safety, but also psychological and emotional safety, where conversations can revolve around a continuum of situations requiring resilience - from employees experiencing challenge and adversity at work or at home, to the exploratory employee with no obvious signs of workplace resilience compromise, to the peak performer pushing that stress threshold.
The impetus to provide that environment of support will cascade down into different programmes that can help facilitate this effort. Some programmes that can be implemented are listed below.
- Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)
- Flexible work arrangements
- Advocate the growth mindset
- Encourage mentoring and coaching
- Leverage Social Emotional Learning (SEL) across the organisation
- Provide opportunity for non-work related community interactions
Top-down Approach for Managers to be equipped with Workplace Resilience tools
Leaders and managers within the organization are pivotal to being able to create the supportive environment mentioned in the earlier point. Change and transformation must happen at the organizational level where leaders and managers move away from mindsets and workforce practices of yesteryear. Statistics show that 47% of high performing employees leave their jobs because of poor managers .
In another survey, 87% of employees said that unsupportive and poorly trained managers and leaders are the cause of unnecessary stress at work .
Managers and leaders must believe in the above workplace resilience programmes, and to be advocates of them, for the strategies to be effective. If required, a wellbeing transformation expert must be parachuted in to effect this change.
Assessment and Measurement
The proficiency of the workforce could be determined by the productivity and commercial performance of the organisation; assessment by managers of their respective teams; or subjective individual assessment of employees.
By identifying metrics and units of measurement tied towards the outcome of improved workplace resilience, organisations will be able to track progress and set short term as well as long term milestones. There must be regular occasional check-ins to make adjustments along the way based on trends, economic impact and global phenomenons.
Some metrics for tracking and assessment are listed below.
- Employee Engagement
- Employee Wellbeing Score
- Employee Net Promoter Score (NPS)
- Employee Turnover
- Employee Absenteeism and Sick Leave
Provide training and resources
Every organisation must dedicate intentional hours towards helping the workforce upskill on technical skills specific to industry and verticals, and also on soft skills specific to building connections and living life. Training can either be delivered in-house or by an external vendor. Providing and making resources available post training will also allow for employees to continue to their own learning journeys.
Learning and development must take into consideration the tools and competencies that will be able to help employees improve on workplace resilience. They must be able to raise awareness for the employee and be personalized to meet needs of different groups and categories.
- Learning Management System (LMS)
- Structured training schedule specific to role, employee grade/level, recommendations by direct-manager, and interest levels of the employee
Below is a non-exhaustive list of wellbeing tools that organisations can choose to focus on, based on the needs of the organisation at that stage of growth and change.
e. Time management
f. Productivity management
g. Taking detachment breaks
h. Engaging in brain-focused activity
After conducting certain surveys and collecting feedback from employees, it is important to analyse the results and develop an action plan to address the issues and concerns raised. By taking your employees’ feedback seriously, it shows that the company is listening and committed to improving working conditions. This also shapes your company culture and creates a positive environment that facilitates employee resilience.
The Impact of Improving Workplace Resilience
With all of that said, we know that greater workplace resilience will increase job satisfaction, work happiness, organisational commitment and employee engagement. Raising workplace resilience contributes to improved self-esteem, sense of control over life events, sense of purpose in life and improved employee interpersonal relationships. Organisations will also reap the rewards of increased productivity.
Time to get started if this is not already your key focus for 2023!
About the Writer
Alex’s compass is guided by the desire to help people. This is the driving force that allows him to focus on helping organisations harness fitness, health and wellness as the vehicles to building sustainable solutions. He is the CEO and Co-founder at Actxa Wellness, where he also leads as Chief Wellbeing Strategist. Together with the team, they provide products and services as Wellness Consultants for organisations, where they identify gaps and work with HR professionals to co-create corporate wellness solutions to improve employee engagement and wellbeing.
Connect more with Alex Loh here ➡️ https://linktr.ee/alexlohsengyue