Organisations across the globe face an unprecedented level of volatility and uncertainty; as a result, building workplace resilience has become a critical topic. Businesses must develop agility and resilience at all levels of their operation if they want to sustainably navigate this environment.
Some organisations have adapted quickly to this environment, focusing on building resilience and developing agility across the business. Other organisations have found it more challenging to shift their focus to deal with the volatile context. Their inability to focus on building resilience has resulted in a lack of agility that limits their ability to adapt to the changing environment. Unfortunately, this is detrimental at all levels of the business operation.
When businesses and people don’t effectively manage the pressures of a volatile, uncertain world, the result is heightened levels of both stress and burnout. Global research (Dimensions International’sInternational’s Global Leadership, 2021) reveals that in the context of COVID, nearly 60% of leaders reported burnout. Research also shows that in the last 12 months, 44% of employees have experienced daily stress (Gallup 2022). This volatile, uncertain environment is also detrimental to mental health.
The NHS (The Guardian, 2022) is projecting that 10 million people will need new or additional support for mental health over the next three to five years. Unfortunately, we must accept that our lives, the economic environment, and the business context are unlikely to become any easier or less uncertain. Instead, we must develop the capacity to flourish in this volatile and uncertain world.
Research has consistently shown that organisations, teams and individuals with high levels of resilience have an enhanced ability to bounce back from adversity and an increased capacity to thrive in turbulent times (Duchek, 2020; Wagnild & Young, 1993). A substantial volume of research shows a positive correlation between high resilience levels, enhanced well-being and the ability to bounce back from challenges (Farber & Rosendahl, 2018). Without resilience, organisations and individuals will not have the capacity to sustainably navigate the volatile and uncertain world. So how do we enhance resilience so that we can flourish no matter the context?
The Determinants of Resilience in The Workplace
Firstly, it is crucial to define what we mean by resilience. Resilience is the internal capacity of the individual that “enables them to bounce back from adversity and flourish in the face of challenges while maintaining healthy levels of psychological, emotional and cognitive well-being.” (Folan, 2019, p. 50). Articulating a definition of resilience has provided a platform for defining, measuring, and developing this attribute. Three research-based determinants have been consistently shown to be critical in enhancing resilience (Folan, 2019).
1. SELF-CONCEPT WELL-BEING (Campbell 1990).
Individuals must develop a clear and stable sense of self with healthy psychological functioning. And maintain their emotional stability and well-being irrelevant of context. Achieving a healthy level of self-concept well-being requires the following:
• Understanding ”Who am I?” and ”What matters to me?”
This requires a deep knowledge of who you are that is grounded in reality. It also necessitates being prepared to explore and understand all aspects of the self – your values, beliefs, attitudes, personality, strengths, weaknesses, cognitive processing capacity, cultural heritage, life experiences, physical attributes, triggers, emotional makeup, etc.
• How do I feel about myself?
This requires an optimistic perspective about who you are. Simply put, you must learn to love yourself, including your strengths and shortcomings. It also requires a healthy, stable sense of self.
2. INTERNAL LOCUS OF CONTROL (Lefcourt, 1991).
An internal locus of control is essential for maintaining resilience. Individuals with an internal locus of control believe that their actions make a difference, and they take ownership of changing their behaviours, actions and reactions to shift their results.
This requires the following:
• Accepting that you do not have control over the world around you, but you do have control over how you respond.
• Learning to choose your reaction regardless of the challenges you face.
• Accepting that you are responsible for your outcomes and actions.
3. CONSTRUCTIVE THINKING (Epstein, 2014)
Individuals who can constructively assess stimuli and utilise well-reasoned and balanced judgements in their decision-making will maintain their mental stability and resilience in any context. This includes effective cognitive processing and control of your thoughts.
• This firstly requires cleaning up cognitive distortions, limiting beliefs, damaging values-based assumptions, destructive attitudes, and residuals from unmanaged adverse emotional reactions.
• Secondly, when destructive thinking occurs, it necessitates bringing this into consciousness and shifting it to constructive thinking.
Practical Strategies for Building Workplace Resilience
While identifying the determinants of resilience makes it clear what needs to change. It is essential to identify practical strategies that support the development of these determinants. It is important to note that building resilience is not a one-off activity. It requires discipline and focus over the long term. Six strategies have consistently been shown to impact all the determinants of resilience positively.
1. PHYSICAL EXERCISE |
Research during COVID showed that regular exercise positively impacted people’s resilience levels. All three dimensions of resilience have been separately correlated with physical activity (Lancaster & Callaghan, 2020).
2. UNPLUGGING FROM TECHNOLOGY |
Research has shown that people who unplug entirely from their devices at night maintain their resilience and are more likely to look forward to going to work in the mornings and feel fulfilled in their jobs (Coleman & Coleman 2012)
3. DEVELOPING A PERSONAL MISSION THAT DEFINES WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU |
Personal effectiveness and resilience are positively impacted by a clearly defined personal mission that identifies what is important to you (Covey 2011).
4. REGULARLY JOURNALING TO PROCESS EMOTIONAL REACTIONS AND DESTRUCTIVE THINKING |
Research has shown that writing down your emotional reactions and thinking is essential for dealing with unhealthy mental processing and negative emotions. (Lohner & Carmela, 2021).
5. MENTORING AND COACHING |
Organisations that support mentoring and coaching for their people are actively contributing to resilience levels (Grant, Curtayne & Burton, 2009).
6. MEDITATION AND MINDFULNESS |
Research in this area continues to show the importance of mindfulness and meditation in enhancing resilience and overall well-being (Arch & Craske, 2006; Waechter, R.L., Wekerle, 2015)
If these practical strategies are used consistently, companies will be on the right track to building workplace resilience, allowing their workforce to flourish in the unstable and volatile context we live in.
Dr Lynda Folan
Dr Lynda Folan, the author of ''Leader Resilience, The New Frontier of Leadership (2021)'', is an Organisational Psychologist and renowned Leadership and Organisational Development specialist. Lynda has considerable expertise in leading organisations through transformational change and works with organisations across the globe to deliver Leadership Development, Organisational Development and Resilience building. As the Managing Director of Inspired Development Solutions, Lynda leads a team that provides leading-edge and bespoke solutions for businesses across all sectors.