Resilience: why you need it, how to get it.
By 5 Sep 2017, 3:00p.m.
According to most definitions, resilience is the ability to cope with challenging and stressful situations. Generally speaking, if you are ‘resilient’ then you are capable of bouncing back from unexpected challenges and stress, and are able to cope with change in a healthy and positive manner.
Unsurprisingly, given today’s fast-paced and demanding workforce, “workplace resilience” is a phrase that is commonly used in workplaces and in job advertisements. Importantly, however, possessing resilience is important both at an individual and an organisational level.
Why you need resilience as an individual
Resilience is a characteristic that is increasingly appearing in key selection criteria for various jobs. But why are employers so concerned about hiring resilient employees? The answer lies in the current workforce which has produced more change and more stress.
From an employer’s perspective, resilient individuals are better able to cope with the changing demands of the workplace. But the key is not just that they are able to cope with stress (although this is very important) but that they will be flexible, adaptable and capable of learning from challenging circumstances. Resilient individuals are therefore able to provide quality contributions to their workplace even during challenging times, and they are able to do so without having a negative effect on their personal life. Naturally, this combination is very attractive to hiring managers who want to be certain that they are hiring someone who is able to thrive under sometimes difficult circumstances without sacrificing their mental health.
While resilience is an appealing characteristic from an employer’s perspective, it is also important for every individual in the workplace to consider building their own resilience for their own sake. Doing so will increase their own personal satisfaction with work and lead to an overall more positive working experience.
Why you need resilience in your organisation
A culture of workplace resilience has become paramount for a successful organisation. Resilient teams are more productive, high performing, have higher morale and are able to adapt more positively to change – all very positive attributes for any team environment.
While hiring resilient individuals is naturally one way of increasing resilience throughout an organisation, it is important that a ‘culture’ of resilience is embedded throughout so that employees feel supported during times of stress. Many workplaces are adopting resilient cultures by rolling out resilience training for staff and encouraging workplace wellbeing through a variety of programs and activities which emphasise mental health, rest, recovery, work-life balance and other healthy habits. Not recognising the importance of workplace resilience, and not focusing on building resilience within teams, can lead to poor performance amongst employees, increased mental health issues and high rates of resignation. Giving resilience the proper care and attention it deserves will embed a more positive and productive culture amongst the workforce, improve retention rates and generally make working for the company or organisation an optimistic experience for all involved.
How individuals can build resilience
While it is true that some people are naturally more inclined to possess resilience than others, there are a number of ways in which every individual can build on their personal resilience.
Psychologist Naomi Harris recommends building resilient thinking, which involves practising strategies such as thinking about what is working well, reminding yourself of your accomplishments, breaking down your goals into manageable sizes, be prepared for mistakes and focusing on acting only on what is within your control. Harris also stresses the importance of taking breaks and getting space.
Another way for individuals to build resilience is to focus on lifestyle factors which can positively improve resilience. This includes taking part in activities you enjoy outside of work and maintaining a healthy lifestyle through food and exercise. Exercise has been shown to reduce stress and improve mental health, while those who engage in regular leisure activities are less likely to succumb to stress.
In developing resilience, it is also very important for individuals to have a support network. Those with stronger support networks are more likely to handle difficult situations in a more positive manner, while strong support networks can increase a person’s sense of belonging and confidence which allows them to cope with workplace challenges when they arise.
How employers can build a resilience culture
Aside from encouraging employees to take care of their mental health through participation in wellness programs and conducting staff training on resilience, there are several other ways which employers can build resilience within their teams.
It all starts with effective leadership. Providing leadership which is positive and adaptable helps to facilitate trust and respect within the overall organisation.
Encouraging team collaboration takes this one step further, by allowing teams to share a sense of purpose and increases their positive interactions. This can be achieved through team activities as well as formal work meetings.
Dissatisfaction at work is often the result of a lack of clarity. Good employers should be able to provide job clarity to employees and help them to continuously understand how their work contributes to the overall organisational structure. This increases the value that employees place on their work and helps to build an overall more resilient culture within an organisation.
Providing support and effective communication are also extremely important to building team resilience. When teams feel supported, informed and engaged, they are more likely to be able to seek support for workplace issues while effective communication helps to build more positive relationships amongst the workplace. A supportive atmosphere can be promoted through encouraging teams to spend time with each other, regularly discussing ways in which employees can support each other and remaining aware of warning signs that indicate that a team member is struggling at work.
It is also really important for employers to recognise employee achievements and promote personal skills which build resilience such as problem solving and autonomy. Finally, encouraging a work-life balance is an important way to keep employees from ‘burning out’ and helps to promote a healthy, balanced lifestyle which is crucial to maintaining resilience.
Australian Public Service Commission 2013, ‘Building Resilience’, Australian Public Service Commission, 7 August, <http://www.apsc.gov.au/publications-and-media/current-publications/mental-health/building-resilience>.
Davidson Trahaire Corpsych, ‘Emotional resilience at work’.
Lowinger, J, ‘Resilience in the workplace’, ABC Health and Wellbeing, <http://www.abc.net.au/health/features/stories/2015/01/22/4165103.htm>.
Wilson, S, Rickard, S & Tamkin, P 2014, ‘Understanding resilience’, <http://www.employment-studies.co.uk/system/files/resources/files/mp94.pdf>.