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Building Resilience to Work-Related Stress

Resilience

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from workplace stressors and continue to perform. Here’s how to build resilience to work-related stress in your business.

Many workplaces are inherently stressful environments. There can be intense pressure to meet challenging deadlines, environments that are constantly changing, and difficult relationships with demanding clients and managers. What’s interesting is that some workers can ride out the constant pressure and stress that comes from working in such an environment while many others struggle. 

So, what is it that allows some employees to survive and even thrive in these challenging and stressful environments? And when things don’t go the way they want, how can they dust themselves off and come back for more without being personally affected? 

The answer, in many cases, is because they are resilient.

What is Workplace Resilience?

Workplace resilience is the ability to recover quickly from the challenges you face at work. Those who are resilient can bounce back from stressful circumstances, negative outcomes, and criticism and continue to perform at their best. 

Resilient people have strong resources and skills to help them manage stress and also typically benefit from a good support network. They are also flexible and able to adapt to different situations, learn from their experiences, and ask for help when they need it. 

The Importance of Resilience at Work

Work-related stress affects both personal and performance outcomes and is also linked to high levels of depression, anxiety, and burnout. That takes a heavy toll on workplaces, both in terms of their productivity and profitability, as well as having a negative impact on the employees themselves. That makes resilience a very valuable trait for employers and one that many employees are keen to develop for personal and professional reasons.  

How to Build Resilience to Work-Related Stress

The good news is that resilience is a skill that can be learned. These are the steps you take to build more resilient teams in your business.

  1. Resilience training

Studies have shown that workplace resilience training is an effective way to protect the long-term health, wellbeing, and performance of employees. Resilience training can be delivered in a variety of forms, from online and group-based training to one-to-one training and a hybrid of these methods. 

Resilience training can recreate challenges that employees commonly experience at work or simulate situations that they have found particularly stressful. Observers then provide feedback on the behaviours that they see and how they can be improved. Cognitive tasks can also be very helpful, with employees asked to think about a problem and discuss how they would react in that scenario, with feedback provided throughout the process. 

Resilience training can be very effective. An American study found that over a two-month period, a business that introduced a resilience programme saw a significant reduction in presenteeism, leading to productivity gains of more than $1,846 per person during that time.

  1. Hold regular debriefing sessions  

After any task or event that employees have found to be particularly challenging or stressful, it is beneficial to provide a post-challenge debriefing session. That allows employees to reflect on their experience and discuss what they think went wrong, what went right, and how they coped. This also helps to increase the level of support within the team and can include action planning for similar tasks in the future.  

As well as holding debriefing sessions after one-off events, this type of session can also be valuable after there have been numerous lower-level challenges over a longer period. Long-term exposure to stress can be very debilitating for teams. Holding debriefing sessions helps to draw a line under those challenging periods and allows staff to learn from their colleagues’ experiences and air their frustrations. As long as they feel heard and their comments are acted on, this can be a very effective way to build resistance and reduce work-related stress. 

  1. Create checklists and guides for challenging situations and tasks

A leading cause of work-related stress is tasks that employees don’t feel equipped to perform and situations that they’re unsure how to deal with. This is where producing workplace guides and checklists can help. 

Having resources that can guide employees through a challenging situation will give them a process to follow, boost their confidence and help to build their resilience to stress. These resources could include anything from key questions that staff should consider and troubleshooting tips to how a difficult situation should be escalated when necessary. 

These documents can also be invaluable for new staff. They can include a range of standard operating procedures that are easily accessible and can be used to help staff complete work tasks as efficiently as possible. That will reduce the likelihood of unexpected challenges arising but also free up the capacity of employees to deal with them when they do.

Another resource that can be valuable is a document that includes the names and contact details of people within the business who can support employees when particular challenges arise. Rather than feeling out of their depth, a simple email or phone call could give employees quick access to the expertise and assistance they need.

  1. Adapting the work culture

The final step you can take to create more resilient teams is to adapt the work culture to create an environment that is positive, supportive and open. By demonstrating the type of behaviours you expect to see yourself and reinforcing those same behaviours in your colleagues and employees, you can start to build a culture of resilience.

A culture of resilience is built on the following behaviours:

  • Speaking up and encouraging employees to ask questions;
  • Identifying signs of potential problems early on, sharing them with the team and being open about bad news;
  • Maintaining your composure at all times and acting positively and professionally, even during moments of heightened stress;
  • Seeking support from experts when necessary rather than simply relying on the opinions of those higher up the chain;
  • Offering support to colleagues before, during and after challenging tasks and situations;
  • Warning employees when there are likely to be times of heightened stress so that they can prepare;
  • When a challenge has passed, taking the time to thank the team members involved and discussing any areas where improvements could be made.

Building Resilient Teams Takes Time

You cannot expect to turn those that have struggled with work-related stress in the past into resilient teams overnight, but putting these strategies in place will help you get there. As well as improving resilience to stress, the changes we suggest will also contribute to the overall health and wellbeing of your team and make your business a more welcoming, open and rewarding place to work. 


Read part 9 of our guide to Managing Business Stress – Dealing With Difficult Work Relationships.