Resilience in the workplace

19 July 2023

In today's fast-paced and ever-changing world, it's more important than ever to be resilient. Being able to recover from setbacks is an essential skill for a successful workplace. Here, we explore search interest in resiliency, along with tips to build resilience.

Resilience online search increases:

In the last few years,* Google search data shows an increased interest around resilience-based searches:

“Examples of showing resilience at work” online searches have tripled

“Showing resilience at work” online searches have tripled

“Resilience training in the workplace” online searches have doubled

Improving resilience within your team may feel easier said than done. Rex Fan, Lead Behavioural Insights Advisor at Bupa UK, shares everything you need to know about building resilience, along with examples to help build resilience at work.

What is resilience?

Resilience is your ability to respond and adapt to challenging circumstances. It also includes how well you’re able to bounce back from any unexpected life obstacles. We each have our own personal tolerance for what we’re able to cope with. However, it’s possible to build your resilience levels to help push yourself to adapt and deal with more challenging scenarios in the future.

Workplace challenges examples:

  • Change: Changes in the working environment can be a major source of stress, whether it's a change in job duties or a new manager.
  • Disagreements: Clashing with others in the workplace setting can make for a challenging working environment, for example with co-workers or clients
  • Stress: Work-related pressures can come from a variety of sources, such as heavy workloads, tight deadlines, or being given unrealistic expectations.
  • Technology changes: Technology is constantly evolving, and businesses must keep up with the latest trends to stay competitive. This may lead to some employees feeling overwhelmed and stressed about learning new skills.
  • Failure: Everyone experiences failure at some point in their careers. How you respond to failure can have a big impact on your resilience levels.
  • Personal circumstances: Events outside of work may impact how well you’re able to work, especially if you’re coping with a lot.

Why is resilience important?

When you’re dealing with difficult circumstances, coping with stressful work scenarios may feel harder than it usually would. Developing resiliency skills can help you navigate turbulent times at work, and can even improve how you’re able to cope with life events in your personal life. Being resilient does not mean that you’ll never feel stressed or go through difficult times, but it does mean that you’re more likely to cope better – and recover quicker – if they do happen.

Resilience at work examples

We each have our own resilience level, meaning some people find it more difficult to bounce back from challenging circumstances than others. Many factors can impact your resiliency at work, including your work-life balance, and how stressed you’re feeling at one time. However, it’s possible to grow your resilience through lifestyle changes that can help to slowly adjust your response to work demands:

  • See the positives - A positive attitude can go a long way in helping you stay resilient at work. If you’re the type of person that usually dreads change, take a moment to think about your default response. Are there any ways you could change your mindset to notice the good the change in question may provide? For example, could these new circumstances give you the opportunity to grow your career in a new way? Taking this approach may help you to become less apprehensive of new challenges and welcome them with less worry.
  • Prioritise your physical health - This means getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and managing stress. When you're taking care of yourself physically, it can have a positive impact on your emotions and how well you cope with work demands. Check in with yourself regularly to see how you’re feeling. If you’re stressed, take the time to reset yourself with relaxation techniques like yoga or guided meditation.
  • Build strong relationships - Having strong and positive relationships is important both in your personal life and at work. A good rapport with your colleagues, manager, and other stakeholders can provide you with support and encouragement when you're facing challenges. Where possible, try to put yourself forward for opportunities to connect with others and develop your relationships further.
  • Take stock from past experiences - Looking back on past difficulties can help prepare you for ones to come. Frankly analysing the strategies and coping mechanisms that got you through tough times can help you identify both positive and negative behaviours – so you know what behaviours to keep, and what to build on.
  • Learn to set daily goals - When you have a lot on your plate, it may feel like you haven’t made a dent in your to-do list. Getting into the habit of daily goal setting every morning can help foster a sense of purpose and achievement when you achieve your realistic daily goals. This also helps you to celebrate your successes, especially when you overcome something particularly challenging!
  • Acknowledge setbacks and act on them - We’ve all had days at work where things don’t seem to go right. Though it may be tempting to try to pretend those days didn’t happen, revisiting those events and your behaviours may give a different prospective on how you coped with them. Recognising how you could have reacted differently can take some time, but acknowledging and learning from it can help you be open to improving in the future.

Resilience activities

If resilience is a new concept for your team, introducing them to it as a group may help to inspire your employees into new ways of working.

Host a group mindfulness session

Guided group mindfulness sessions help all participants to learn the basics of the principles of mindfulness. In a group setting, each employee will discover how to appreciate their surroundings and regain control of their thoughts.

These sessions can promote a positive state of mind if future work matters have your team doubting themselves. They can also encourage your team to connect with each other on a deeper level and motivate one another to make mindfulness a regular part of their routine.

Implement regular breaks

When we’re busy and engrossed in work, hours can pass without you realising. In those hours, you may have not moved from the spot where you’ve been sat. As a manager, encouraging your team to take regular breaks is an important way to help protect their energy.

Research shows that balancing work with brief breaks is good for our energy, mental clarity, creativity and focus. Introduce the Pomodoro technique as a concept to your team, where short bursts of focus time are mixed with regular breaks.

Develop team bonds

Taking time to socialise together can help to promote psychological safety within your team. When your team knows one another on a more personal level, it can help promote respect, remove and give employees the confidence to suggest more unusual or creative ideas in the workplace.

Connections can be made through team-building sessions, team volunteering, team retreats, social get-togethers and more.

Have regular one to one catch-ups

Make sure you have consistent catch-ups with your team to review how their month has gone. Encourage your team to be frank – what’s gone well? What are they proud of? What could have gone better?

Analysing the best and the worst elements of their working month, together, can explore approaches and techniques to respond in a different manner, if they find themselves in similar future situations.

These catch-ups also offer the opportunity to raise any concerns your team may have over their workplace environment, whether it’s the location or managerial styles.

How is resilience developed?

Like any long-term changes, improving resiliency takes time and dedication. If you, or someone you know in your team is trying to boost your resilience but feel like you’re getting nowhere, it could be a sign of mental health struggles.

Check your workplace benefits to see if you have access to appointments with mental health professionals. Talking through how you’re feeling with a trained expert may help to gain different perspectives and improve your overall wellbeing. The earlier you address any issues you have with your wellbeing, the easier it is to achieve better outcomes.

*Based on internal UK-based Google data research. Research period: June 2021 – May 2023

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