The events of the last year have shown us all a thing or two about fear, uncertainty and change. But even in less globally challenging times, uncertainty and change are part of everyday life—including work life. It’s important for employees to learn resilience so that they can take change in stride, work with uncertainty, and cope better with fear. This allows them to stay engaged, focused, and productive, which serves the whole organization.

What is resilience and why is it needed at work?

According to the American Psychological Association, resilience is “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress”, which can include personal or workplace stressors.

The ADP Research Institute’s Workplace Resilience Study conducted last year defined resilience as “the capacity of an individual to withstand, bounce back from, and work through challenging circumstances or events at work.”

When employees are emotionally overwhelmed by setbacks and challenges, they can’t focus, which makes it harder for them to be productive. An employee’s negative attitude can bring other team members down, and their unhappiness can make them less engaged and motivated.

How to boost flexibility and resilience in your team

A team’s resilience starts with individual members learning to respond with flexibility and grace when the road gets rocky. When HR and management create the optimal environment, it’s easier for individuals to build resilience and strength—and to lift up other team members, too.

Leading by both instruction and example is key for management. Managers and HR can help teams bounce back from disappointments, setbacks and curve balls by:

  • Modeling resilience
  • Suggesting resilience-building tools
  • Communicating clearly
  • Building trust

Trust and “real” talk build resilience

The ADP Research Institute’s survey of workers across 25 countries last June found that only 19% of U.S. workers are highly resilient today. Executives and managers tend to be more resilient, as do employees with the most trust in their higher-ups.

There was another thing resilient workers had in common.

The survey revealed that employees who had direct experience with COVID-19 in their family or workplace were 2.9 times more likely to exhibit resilience than those who did not. In other words, those who had faced a difficult COVID-related experience rather than just running through fears in their heads felt less fearful afterward and were adapting better to the “new normal” of home life and workplace changes.

In his presentation at the HR Technology conference, ADP Research Institute Head Marcus Buckingham said he saw this as a cue to managers that it’s better to talk to employees directly about the challenges of the pandemic and necessary workplace adjustments rather than sugar-coating or skirting around the topics. “When people know what is happening, they can build resilience, overcome fear and access their capacity,” Buckingham said.

5 tools that build resilience in leaders and teams

The truths and tools agreed on by philosophers and psychologists over the ages apply to work as much as to our personal lives. Team leaders should suggest these tools to their teams, making sure to share the ones they have used successfully:

Embracing change

“Change is the only constant in life.” These words are attributed to Greek philosopher Heraclitus. Test his theory: Did something change or shift in your life this week? Was there a single day when nothing changed in either your home, community or work life?

Change is the norm, and it happens whether we resist it or not. Remind your team that change happens all the time and can bring growth. Expecting it, laughing at it sometimes, even embracing it can make work life in these uncertain times a little easier. You could even ask team members to take turns highlighting a positive change that occurred in their week at a group meeting. This helps them, and you, work that “resilience muscle”.

Facing fears

As discussed above, the ADP’s Workplace Resilience Study revealed that people who’ve had to face difficult COVID-related situations more directly—even just being required to wear protective gear at work—showed more resilient qualities than those who didn’t. Adversity showed them what they were made of. The American Psychological Association’s report “The Road to Resilience” suggests maintaining a positive outlook even in the face of fear: “Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear.” In regard to fear of failure, a common type of fear, Psychology Today magazine suggests that viewing a task you could fail at as a challenge instead of threat can help you perform better.

Practicing self-care

Everyone is talking about self-care these days, because it’s one thing you can control to increase stability of mood and health. The term encompasses practices like exercising regularly and eating well to keep your body strong and happy. But it also covers mental self-care, also known as self-compassion. One way to become more compassionate with yourself when faced with a difficult situation, according to the University of Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine, is to notice what your inner voice says. If it’s something like, “Get with the program! Stop being such a baby!”, try to start adjusting your self-talk to sound more like how you would speak to a friend.

Being present

“Mindfulness” is sometimes described as “being present”, or aware of your body, mind and environment at this moment. When faced with change, our thoughts get caught up in fear and panic, jumping into the future or questioning the past. Negative thought cycles about the past or future can be tough to re-steer, but sometimes a behavioral break—e.g. taking five deep breaths, or going on a five-minute speed-walk—gives us a chance to come back to the present, where we find everything is okay. There are many employee mindfulness training courses you can offer employees, which some claim gives companies a competitive advantage. And you can even institute one-minute deep-breathing breaks in your morning or afternoon meetings.

Staying connected

Connecting with empathetic people who validate your feelings reminds you that you’re not alone in times of stress, and boost resilience, according to the American Psychological Association. Encourage your employees to take advantage of free counseling sessions through an Employee Assistance Program. Managers can also foster connection by celebrating workers’ small wins, or with frequent check-ins that show an interest in who they are and not just what they’re doing.

Arcoro’s modular HR software can help you increase resilience and flexibility in your team in times of ongoing change. Our Learning Management System allows you to easily schedule mindfulness instructions as well as other mental-health awareness trainings. Our Benefits Management solution lets you automate open enrollment and other benefits offerings. And our Applicant Tracking System and Onboarding software help you to establish a warm, connected company culture from before the hire date and beyond. Get in touch with us today to learn more about how we can support you and your team.

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