Before the pandemic, businesses were struggling to build and maintain workplace cultures that kept employees engaged and motivated. Since the pandemic, building and sustaining healthy, happy, and resilient workplace cultures is an even greater challenge.
A resilient workforce is more important than ever before.
Businesses and employees are facing unprecedented challenges such as inflation and the rising cost of living, higher gas and energy prices, and more people struggling with mental health. One of the ways employees are responding to this tidal wave of challenges is to resign and look for new opportunities.
Known as the Great Resignation, companies are struggling to retain talented employees, especially in the IT sector, and within IT functions of enterprise organizations. One reason for this is staff want the option to work from home, either full-time, or using a hybrid model. Businesses that don't offer this will lose talent to more flexible organizations.
However, flexibility isn't the only area where organizations need to make improvements. Workplace resilience is another area that needs serious consideration, and in many cases, a proactive strategy. In this article, we take a closer look at how companies can increase the resilience among staff during these difficult times.
Why Is Resilience Important In The Workplace?
Stress kills. During the pandemic, stress and anxiety in workplaces and at home increased approximately 25%, according to the American Psychological Association. The same survey found that 63% of American adults feel like the pandemic has changed their lives forever, made worse by inflation, fears of a recession, and global political and climate uncertainty.
Money is at the front of everyone's mind, thanks to rampant inflation and the fear of a recession. According to the APA survey: "Money stress registered at the highest recorded level since 2015, revealed the broader poll."
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 90% of countries included mental health in their pandemic planning. We are living in the unfinished aftermath of the pandemic, while at the same time struggling to return to some kind of normal in a turbulent world.
All of this has a direct impact on employees and managers in workplaces. Deloitte's Global 2022 Gen Z and Millennial Survey found that approx. 12% of Gen Z's and 17% of Millennials left their jobs because they "felt the job was detrimental to their mental health."
ADP's People at Work 2022 study indicated that 53% of employees feel their mental health is negatively impacting their work. Stress at work, financial and life stress all play a role in this.
Building and maintaining workplace resilience is a proactive way of improving your team's mental health. It should be a core component of every company's HR and wellbeing strategy.
What Does Workplace Resilience Mean?
Businesses invest time in working out the most effective ways to stay resilient. However, if your employees aren't resilient then it puts the whole company at risk.
Resilience is key to making workplaces a psychological safe place for employees. What might an example of resilience at work look like in a healthy corporate environment? The following are a few different ones:
- Team members being able to confidently ask for help
- Saying they are struggling to maintain good mental health without fear of being fired or less valued
- Obtaining permission to work from home and still fully participate in the decision making process
Alongside mental health initiatives, a resilient workforce is about ensuring employees can face and recover from challenges more effectively. No one is perfect. Mistakes will be made. Some mistakes will cost money and customers. Resilience gives employees the ability to recover from these mistakes, learn from them, and move forward without giving up.
Resilience improves employee engagement, increases productivity, self-esteem, job satisfaction, and manages stress more effectively. Not only will this help employees at work — and the organization as a whole, but your team members may find they can cope with stress outside of work more easily as well.
Now let's dive into how you can build and maintain resilience at work, especially in healthcare organizations, law firms, and customer contact centers.
How to Build Resilience at Work
Practice Mindfulness: Implement a way for employees to learn and use mindfulness
Mindfulness is a way of training the mind to focus on the present task, and your emotions — whether good or bad — without letting future worries/tasks, or negative feelings, overwhelm you.
Mindfulness is an increasingly popular mental health practice in workplaces. The New York Times informs us that Google, General Mills, and hundreds of other companies are training employees in mindfulness.
A Harvard Business Review (HBR) article highlighted the fact that numerous physiological studies found there are dozens of workplace benefits to practicing mindfulness. Benefits such as improved engagement, increased resilience, enhanced cognitive flexibility, and reductions in employee stress levels.
Businesses can bring onboard mindfulness practitioners to train teams. Alongside training, there are several apps that can support workplace mindfulness, such as Headspace, Spire, Mental Workout, Calm, Whil and Simple Habit. Combining in-person training with app-based support will boost employee resilience when mindfulness is practiced across the organization.
Learn how to Compartmentalize your Workplace Cognitive Load
We can't decrease the amount of information we receive every second, minute, and hour of the day. On average, our brains receive and process 11 million bits of information every second. Most of that is the information from our senses — sight, smell, touch, taste, etc. We process that without thinking.
On the other hand, our brains also process at least 40 bits of information every hour that require the executive functioning part of our brain to make a decision, or incorporate into other decision making processes. It could be as simple as choosing what to have for dinner, or as complex as whether to hire or fire someone at work.
Complex, executive decision making is tiring. It's a contributing factor to stress at work. It requires our brains to process and handle information as effectively as possible. Multi-tasking is one of the least effective ways to manage cognitive loads, reducing productivity as much as 40%. One way to improve working efficiency and resilience is to compartmentalize working tasks. Use a practice known as "serial monotasking" whereby you go through one task at a time with specific scheduled slots to complete the work.
Take Digital Detox Breaks
Humans experience energy cycles on an hourly and daily basis, known as our ultradian (hourly) and circadian (daily) rhythms. On average, providing you can work uninterrupted, energy, clarity, and mental focus can last anywhere between 90 and 120 minutes. After that, you need to take a break.
No one is going to be as effective working nonstop for hours and hours. Numerous studies have found that taking a brief step away from workplace activities will make you more focused. Especially if you don't check email or workplace messages during a brief break. Your brain needs time to recharge.
Taking time off work for vacations — where you don't check work emails/messages — and on evenings and weekends is very important. Cognitive strain and stress is one of the main reasons companies and several countries have implemented 4-day work week trials (without a loss of salary), and the results of these trials are forthcoming.
Develop Mental Agility at Work
Mental agility is integral to resilience. During tropical storms in rainforests it's the older, less flexible trees that come crashing to the ground. Younger, more agile trees survive the storms and grow to reach the forest canopies.
It's the same in workplaces. Mental agility is a surviving mechanism, and when paired with mindfulness you can stop reacting to negative situations or colleagues and instead start responding more effectively.
Mental agility involves "decentering". We can acknowledge that a situation causes stress, and while pausing, observe the stress factors at play, and then respond. It's a way of giving ourselves mental breathing space to stressful situations.
Cultivate Compassion Among Colleagues
Compassion for ourselves and colleagues is another powerful way to increase resilience. According to research from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, "compassion increases positive emotions, creates positive work relationships, and increases cooperation and collaboration."
Improving compassion throughout an organization contributes to productivity, engagement, and increases resilience.
Summary & Key Takeaways for a Resilient Workforce
Businesses everywhere are finding it more difficult to keep employees happy, motivated, engaged, and to retain talent. Everyone is struggling in some way. The pandemic caused massive changes that we are still coping with. It will be defined as the collective trauma of this generation, alongside war, recession, etc.
Improving resilience in the workplace is one way to counteract the numerous challenges we are all facing. Resilience is a proven way to improve productivity, engagement, and talent retention.
Here are five ways you can increase resilience among team members at work:
- Practice Mindfulness: Implement a way for employees to learn and use mindfulness
- Learn how to Compartmentalize your Workplace Cognitive Load
- Take Digital Detox Breaks
- Develop Mental Agility at Work
- Cultivate Compassion Among Colleagues