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Building a Resilient Workplace


Resilience in the workforce has become a hot topic over the last 8 months. While resilience and adaptation are often used interchangeably, it is important to note that resilience extends beyond adaptability which is the ability to change direction as circumstances change. Resilience is the ability to adapt to these changes over and over again.

“Resiliency isn’t just about sitting and enduring so many of these changes and uncertainties – it’s about finding ways to recover and recharge. That is the key to resiliency.” – Megan Wheeler, Lifelabs on the WWP Podcast Episode #23

On an individual level, resilience is a person’s ability to continuously respond to pressure and demands. Mental health, preventing employee burnout, and building a resilient workplace are top of mind for many organizations (and why wouldn’t they? It is estimated that 1 trillion dollars is lost in productivity because of depression, anxiety, and stress). In this article, we list several ways organizations can build a resilient workplace.

1) Provide social support

Close relationships that provide emotional support are vital during times of change. People need the space for small talk and the ability to talk about their feelings. Talking allows for cognitive offloading – the process to unload the situation and analyze thoughts and feelings surrounding the situation.

For people that are cognitive offloading, it is helpful to ask the following open ended questions:

– what is the top priority?

– where should we focus conversation/our attention?

– what is the best way to go about this?

Having honest conversations and providing feedback can help individuals recover or “bounce back” faster. This is important for overall team dynamics. Highly adaptable and resilient individuals will have an affect on team decisions and dynamics.

“People with really good resiliency are really good at bouncing back. This will have a ripple effect on their teams.” – Megan Wheeler, Lifelabs on the WWP Podcast Episode #23


2) Encourage the strategic pause

When faced with change or stress, it is helpful to stop, assess what is going on, and then take action. In the moment, this might be taking a deep breath. Putting down the phone to stop checking emails (or the news) can also help us recharge. The strategic pause may also come in the form of taking a few days off. With the rapid change into remote work and the general events of 2020, it can be easy to overwork and forget about vacation time. Managers should encourage employees to achieve a good work-life balance and take a break in order to avoid burnout.

3) Treat problems as a learning process

Managers can help employees develop the habit of seeing challenges as opportunities. Feedback conversations and 1-on-1 check-ins can help managers address any problems that employees can have.

4) Set realistic goals and provide feedback

Unrealistic goals are demotivating and can provide unnecessary stress for employees. Employees should be involved in the goal setting process – this will allow for communication of clear expectations. Moreover, employees will have a greater sense of ownership over the goal if they are involved in the process. Providing effective feedback often can help address any issues the employee is having completing their goal. It also provides an opportunity to adapt the goal as needed.

We also recommend having a performance management software that can help capture employee feedback and track employee goals.


Important note on bad stress vs. good stress

It is worth noting that not all stress is bad. According to the Yerkes-Dodson Law, performance can actually increase under stress, but only to a point. When levels of stress become too high or if stress is sustained for too long without the ability for the individual to recharge, performance will decrease.

Managers need to be able to identify poorly managed stress, as this type of stress can lead to distress and burnout. Having frequent feedback conversations with your employees, recognizing efforts and accomplishments, and encouraging your employees to take time off are a few ways to manage stress and build mental toughness in your workplace.

What do you think? Let us know your thoughts!

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