Businesses have been forced to be resilient in 2020


How do you deal with stress?

When sharing feelings stress or adversity with friends, we’re often given motivational quotes to bolster our spirits.  You have definitely heard variations on:

“Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

― Nelson Mandela

“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”

― Margaret Thatcher

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

― Confucius

Thousands of platitudes, maxims, and touching sentiments have been conjured on the topic of adversity. No matter how true they may ring, it is difficult to find the joy in quotes when hardship strikes.

So, how can we look beyond pretty turns of phrase and understand the message underpinning thoughts spanning centuries?

The key theory which these inspirational quotations touch on is that of resilience. Given present circumstances, it is likely a term you have heard more frequently than in the last few years combined. This is hardly coincidental. Though it may seem cliché, consciously developing resilience is crucial in stress management. There is no argument- we are living through stressful times. Yet, resilience extends beyond the management of stress and into finding opportunity during times of adversity. Let us take a closer look at what resilience is and is not, the benefit of developing resilience, and crucially, how we can build our resilience.


What is Resilience?


Resilience is not a single skill. Though simplistically defined as the ability to recover quickly from troubles, resilience extends far beyond ‘toughness’. Resilience is a combination of multiple methods of negotiating stressful periods in life. The key to understanding resilience is adaptability. Hence, the idea of getting back up after life pushes you down is a helpful framework to understand an aspect of resilience. However, this notion fails to account entirely for the difference in the mindset of resilient people. The development of ‘Positive Psychology’, a focus on ‘what makes life most worth living’ (Peterson, 2008), incorporates into resilience. The cornerstone of resilience is the reframing of adversity as opportunity. ‘Bounce back’ is commonly brought up as a form of resilience- as should ‘bounce forward.’ We will discuss further the need to establish forward-looking mindsets. Resilient people seem to constantly have a positive outlook and high-performance, but it is not a natural skill. This is good news- you too can develop your resilience.

The wide-reaching impact of Resilience

WHO declared that stress is the ‘global health epidemic of the 21st Century.’ This epidemic will continue to be felt long after we have dealt with Covid-19. Much of this stress is related to the workplace- the American Institute of Stress identified a shocking upward trajectory in workplace stress. This is increasingly concerning given that 80% of employees already feel stressed at work (American Institute of Stress, 2020). Our corporate culture is on a dangerous trajectory. Moreover, this is not purely qualitative in its impact, though it does zap away employee motivation and morale. Hundred of billions of dollars, euros, and pounds are lost as organisations suffer from absenteeism, presenteeism, direct medical and insurance costs, and diminished productivity. In the long term, your business cannot avoid addressing workplace stressors. 

Clearly, resilience figures heavily in dealing with stress. Combined with the pace of change in the business landscape, resilience training is a potential gamechanger for your business. Stress and change are two factors which influence our resilience levels. They are also unavoidable aspects of existence. How well we can adapt and grow during periods of instability, stress, change, and general upheaval, determines what we can achieve.

Though we’re focusing on workplace resilience, the framework implemented extends itself into every aspect of your life. If you have ever found yourself envious of a friend or colleague with a perpetually opportunistic disposition- channel that energy into developing your resilience.


Understanding your Current Capability

To strengthen your resilience, it is important to understand your current level of resilience. This can be achieved by studying your current filter. You can benefit further from this by asking people who know you well and with which you interact frequently to pass comment on the below components. Filters are composed of three dominant responses:

  • Take time to scrutinize your current mindset. How do you look at problems? What approach do you take to conquering obstacles?
  • Take time to examine how you act when confronted with adversity. What is your default reaction? Do you take lead or fall back?
  • Take time to understand how you interact with people when stressed. How do you treat your teammates and peers? Do people notice you are stressed through your interactions?

By stepping back and assessing these three responses, you can identify areas of growth in your resilience.

Developing Resilience as an Employee in the Workplace

Building up resilience is closely linked to ‘Positive Psychology’. Hence, though you should be aware of areas of weakness in your resilience, you may gain the most benefit from bolstering areas of strength. By developing your present resilience skills, you can capitalise on areas of proven success.  If you would rather divert attention to areas of growth, remember that mindset is vital to maturation. Positive emotions and outlook can buffer workplace stress by reframing your cognitive bias. They incline us towards making positive appraisals of challenging situations and increase our likelihood of using problem-focused coping. Granted, thinking positive is easier said than done. Practicing mindfulness will allow you to catch your bias at work and start reframing your approach to challenges. Working towards this level of mental agility is a process of continuous development.

Further skills designed to enhance protective factors associated with resilience include optimism, self-efficacy, problem-solving, self-regulation, flexibility, emotional awareness, empathy, and nurturing strong relationships. That is quite a list, but these are not isolated factors and are best utilised in combination.  

Developing Resilience as a Team in the Workplace

Stellar results come from collaborative work. Though there may be exceptions, working in teams allows for the respective skills of the individuals within the team to synergise. Executed effectively and efficiently, teams can achieve a higher quality, innovative, integrated product. However, teams are as prone to change and stress as individuals. Thus, it is of critical importance that teams can withstand and overcome trials while sustaining performance and cohesion. Better yet, resilient teams strengthen in the shadow of difficulty. This goes beyond simple team building or basic corporate training- building team resilience impacts every aspect of business. Four steps are to be taken to build resilient teams in the workplace:

  • References

Creating checklists, guidelines, and clear procedures mitigates stress. When faced with new challenges or stressful situations, keeping a rational mindset feels impossible. Anticipate common issues and create quick reference sheets, checklists, processes, and guides. This will improve your efficiency and will minimise stress that teams may feel.

  • Upskilling and preparation

Focus on developing group understanding. By prioritising the positive team coordination and cohesion, stress levels are easier to manage. You may decide to engage in group training. Offering physical training, going through the motions of certain activities, ensures that physical tasks are practiced and efficient. Likewise, cognitive training through case studies allows people to think through situations thoroughly in less stressful situations. This experience and knowledge can then be applied to real life situations which you will be increasingly comfortable with due to this familiarity.

  • Communication

Briefing and debriefing teams prior to anticipated stress, during stressful periods, and post challenges is instrumental to resilience training. This encourages transparency, support, and reflection.  Team building requires effective and efficient communication. Ensuring that communication is clear fosters safe-spaces and innovation as people feel trusted and informed.  It also allows individuals to implement appropriate coping strategies or plans for stressful periods. Giving a heads-up can make a colossal difference in how people brace and batten down for challenges. Resilience often comes from balancing preparation and flexibility to ensure people are adaptable.

  • Corporate Culture

Creating an appropriate atmosphere for building resilient teams is instrumental in maximising well-being and performance. Some tips which may guide this include encouraging open communication and sharing- whether the news is good or bad-, maintaining composure during ‘emergencies’, seeking out expertise rather than rank, support throughout experiencing stressors, and, expressing when entering or exiting emergencies. This encourages resilience in teams for the entire business lifecycle, not just for periods of stress or difficulty. Notably, much of this requires action to be taken by leadership and management. Resilience at work is most effectively achieved when working across all organisational levels.

Developing Resilience as a Leader in the Workplace


Leaders are responsible for the resilience training of their teams. Likewise, as a leader, you serve as resilience role model. Prioritising resilient thinking in the workplace requires the evolution of leadership skills. As detailed earlier, a resilient team requires leaders which encourage the right corporate culture. Make sure you are setting your teams up for success by being conscious of the necessity of corporate resilience.

Having examined the function of resilience, the importance resilience, and how it is to be achieved, you are now better prepared to mature your resilience skills. Though individuals and corporations are facing an unanticipated period of stress in dealing with Covid-19, the resilient mindset helps turn stress into positive opportunity. Reframing obstacles as opportunities to grow, perhaps even flourish, sets you apart. Not only are you likely to improve the quality of your work, you will also produce a positive framework for thought beyond business. With this new mental clarity, perhaps you’ll find your own personal words of wisdom.

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