Building Resiliency at Work

Even those of us who are happy at work will say there are still stressors nonetheless – constant change, too few staff, and strained workplace relationships to name just a few. And then there are the challenges in our personal life as well!

But, why is it that some people are overwhelmed by stress and others maintain their well-being despite the challenges? Why are some people so resistant to change while others take control of the process? Why is it that some people harbour grudges, where others will simply get over it, learn what they can, and get on with the future?

The answer is, of course, Resilience – our ability to bounce back and adjust to challenges that life sends our way. It is our self-righting mechanism, our ability to restore equilibrium, when it has been disrupted.

Resilience is primarily the choices we make in responding to adversity, such as our attitude to challenges and our willingness to take action. But workplaces can also do their part to develop resiliency in their staff. Here is what you and your workplace can do to help:

  1. Build supportive relationships. Positive relationships are one of the key protective factors that help to safeguard people's well-being. Workplaces can encourage positive relationships at work by encouraging people to find time to simply talk to each other, promoting values of respect and working things out when difficulties occur. Workplaces can also encourage mentoring relationships, organise social activities, and arrange professional development promoting positive team relationships.
     
  2. Encourage positive attitudes. People in senior roles can do so by simply modelling helpful attitudes to workplace challenges. For example, if people are complaining, move the focus to generating viable solutions. You can also help those with positive attitudes to be heard more at team meetings. In relation to workplace change, remind people what is not changing and how they have successfully managed change in the past.
     
  3. Communicate clear and reasonable expectations for their role. People gain security from knowing what is going to happen and what is expected of them. However, you also need to give team members support in meeting these expectations, taking into account the needs of individuals. Often people have much higher expectations of themselves than does their workplace. Helping individuals to have reasonable expectations of themselves and others at work will definitely help them to feel less stressed.
     
  4. Address small issues before they grow into major concerns. One of the factors that places people's well-being at risk is prolonged or concurrent stressors at work. Most people can cope with significant stress at work for about 18 months. However, stress that continues on past this time will certainly come out one way or another - perhaps affecting their morale, performance or health.

    Here two-way conversations are especially important where you make it easy for people to raise their concerns and offer possible solutions. As these people are offered both understanding and actions to address some of these concerns, this risk factor is minimised.
     
  5. Get people engaged at work. The more engaged people are at work, the more resilient they become. Workplaces can encourage engagement by aligning people’s strengths and interests with their role, giving those who want challenge more of this, and involving people in making decisions about their work. People need to also understand the purpose of their work and how their efforts contribute to the overall outcomes at their workplace.
     
  6. Give meaningful recognition. It is amazing how hard people will work and the challenges they will put up with if they are given meaningful recognition for what they do. A genuine ‘thank you’ can go a long way. Sadly, only approximately 1/3 of people believe they receive sufficient recognition for what they do. The challenge is to find recognition that is meaningful to the individual concerned. Although team leaders play a crucial role, everyone shares responsibility in contributing to the well-being and morale of their team.
     
  7. Support team members with their work-life balance. Workplaces can help team members find a better balance by being flexible as much as possible with working hours. Some team members will appreciate the balance that comes from being able to do some work from home instead of the workplace.

    Some workplaces cater to the health needs of team members by providing showers, bicycle racks, or salary benefits associated with green transport to work – walking, cycling or using public transport. Managers, of course, need to be a good role model of living their life in balance. If they are not modelling this behaviour, their team will believe that working long hours is an expectation of their workplace.

So, how is your workplace going with the above? The good news is that as you encourage resilience in your team members, you will find that sick leave and staff turnover reduces, morale and productivity increases, and people have better attitudes to challenges that occur.


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