What makes a resilient workplace culture thrive?

Need to know:

  • Employers should lead from the top with consistent messages and strategies.
  • They can conduct reviews and invest in resilience-building training.
  • Employee assistance programmes (EAPs) and mental health and wellbeing support should be regularly promoted.

If there was ever a year to collectively test our resilience, 2020 was it. Absence management provider e-days compared figures before and after the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic began and found stress-related sickness days had soared by 113%. The findings, published in April 2021, also showed the number of people taking stress-related leave rose by 74% in quarter one of 2021 compared to quarter one figures for 2019.

Arguably, resilience building in the workplace has never been more important. So, how can employers help staff develop the ability to cope with challenges, pressures and stress in times of adversity?

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Lead from the top

Sean McPheat, CEO of management training specialists MTD Training, which has delivered courses to organisations including Sport England, says: “If an [employer] wants to create a resilient culture then all of its leaders need to be onboard and singing from the same hymn sheet.

“I’ve likened the spread of company culture to the equivalent of the R-rate during the Covid pandemic, i.e, does it spread? And it can spread negatively just as it can positively.

“If employees do not know how to be resilient then it can manifest itself throughout the whole [organisation]. So, any development needs to be conducted throughout the organisation with consistent messages and strategies.”

Use internal resources

Developing a team of leaders is essential so that they can better balance stress, pressure and ongoing work demands for their teams, McPheat says.

“Other things leaders can do is create an internal health and wellbeing group to review what is being done to build resiliency, and regularly survey workers too. This can help [them] understand how people are feeling and the daily challenges they are facing.”

Understanding that a person’s resilience levels, causes of stress and coping mechanisms all vary depending on their life circumstances, is crucial, according to Arjan Toor, Cigna Europe’s CEO.
“Building employee resilience won’t happen overnight and one size most certainly doesn’t fit all, but senior business leaders can accelerate the process by championing their internal resilience programmes,” he explains. “Programmes with middle management support yield a high return on investment, averaging 10 times the initial investment, so it’s important senior leaders support the initiative.”

Provide a range of support tools

Eugene Farrell, Axa Health’s mental health lead, explains that a resilient mindset is not fixed but one that accepts change, the ups and downs of life, and can see the opportunities to learn and grow. Employers have access to a range of tools that can support their workorce in developing this mindset. “Employee assistance programmes (EAPs) are an important tool in any strategy for supporting mental health,” he says. “They provide low-cost, easy and timely access to mental health professionals who can help employees better understand and manage their emotions and reactions to problems and issues at an early point, before they become overwhelming or a potential crisis.”

Exploring an employee’s current resilience skill set as well as their qualities, is also helpful. Once this is done, Farrell suggests managers encourage staff to embrace challenges, try new skills with ‘stop-points’ to assess and learn and structure feedback to help people grow, to succeed and to thrive.

“When blame is removed, organisations and individuals are more able to take calculated risks and will continue to strive to resolve issues and improve the business,” Farrell concludes.