employee resilience

During a time where employee burnout is increasing, promoting employee wellbeing is essential to developing a successful and effective workplace culture. Unfortunately, most workplaces focus on short-term recovery activities, as opposed to building resilience in the workplace.

Are you prepared to take the necessary steps to build employee resilience into your company’s culture?

What Is Resilience?

It’s quite common for people to think of resilience as “smiling through the pain” or pushing through adversity, but the true concept is a bit more nuanced. Resilience is the ability to experience setbacks or failures and use them to create momentum. In other words, resilience isn’t about bouncing back, it’s about Bouncing-Forward.

Instead of limiting oneself to a negative response when confronting any challenge, resilience empowers one to harness the power of the challenge faced and use it to grow in the long run.

Now, you may look at famous athletes, musicians and other public figures and believe that they were born with the extraordinary ability to face adversity. While many gifts absolutely have a genetic component, resilience is different. Resilience is not a characteristic gifted to some individuals and not others, but it’s an active process that needs to be cultivated.

The Importance of Recovery for Building Resilience

Contrary to popular belief, stress is not inherently negative. When used in the right way, it can be a driving force towards success and growth. For employees in stressful work environments, building resilience at work is key to staying effective and productive. Even in high-stakes workplaces, it’s not the stress that kills us, and it’s not exhaustion that’s the issue, it’s the lack of recovery from that stress.

Think of your favorite athlete. They probably spent countless hours working on their craft, pushing their body to its limits. Yet, they’re still able to compete at incredible levels, all while making it look easy. If all stress was damaging, these athletes would never be able to participate in their sport after practicing, much less compete on national and global levels. The difference in the athlete’s approach to practice is that recovery is built into the formula. 

Resilience is not about how you endure, it is about how you recharge or recover your energy. The important key to resilience in the workplace is performing to the best of your ability each day, then taking a break to recover so you can continue performing at your best.

Resilience doesn’t only mean physical resilience, but it’s mental, emotional and spiritual as well. All aspects of the human experience require recovery, because part of being human is experiencing challenges. Resilience is a vital skill and focusing on building resilience at work is a great way to begin improving your ability to overcome challenges.

This conclusion is based on biology. Homeostasis is a fundamental biological concept describing the ability of the brain to continuously restore and sustain wellbeing. When the body is out of alignment from overworking, we waste a vast amount of mental and physical resources trying to return to balance before we can move forward. That is why recovery is important for employee resilience. As with high achieving athletes, resilience is the powerful result of building recovery into your growth process.

Building Rituals for Recovery

When’s the last time you gave yourself time to truly recover from a stressful week? Sure, you may have slept in on a Saturday, but rest and recovery are not the same thing. Stopping work alone does not equal recovery.

Think about your cell phone for a minute. If your battery is low, you may stop using it or turn off certain features to reduce its usage until you have access to a charger. While this will prolong your battery life, your battery percentage will still continue to decrease. At some point, you have to plug in your phone to a power source in order to recharge it. Just like a phone, if you’re only pausing your usage of your mind and body without taking time to recharge, eventually, you’ll run out of energy.

The research indicates that there is a relationship between your recovery times and the capacity to perform. All of the activities we do in business are directly related to how much energy you can use at any given time. One of the best ways to build resilience is to create a self-care ritual that focuses on recovery. Whether it’s taking twenty minutes to meditate, or putting your feet up and closing your eyes to take a nap in the middle of the day, recharging your body is key to building resilience. 

Once you’ve found the best method of recovery for your needs, focus on creating a routine that will eventually turn into a ritual. A routine is something that you do consistently every day, but a ritual is a special connection within your routine activities that you look forward to daily.

Practice Optimism and Mindfulness

As a part of your new recovery ritual, consider your mindset. Mindset is a key component of resilience, so it should come as no surprise that those who are mindful are also more flexible and adaptable to changes. Practicing daily mindfulness for even a few minutes a day can help you become more aware of the energy you’re using and better understand when it’s time to recharge.

Mindfulness is also a great tool for combating self-doubt and other self-sabotaging thoughts. When you feel negative thoughts start to intrude, try shifting those thoughts to something more positive. For example, it’s tempting to think of all of the negative aspects of work during a challenging project. Instead, try naming five positive things that have happened during your workday. Now, your thinking is working for you, rather than creating new doubt. This is a great, simple way to practice resilience in the workplace.

Compartmentalize Cognitive Tasks

Our brains receive millions of bits of information every second. However, our brains are only capable of effectively processing a fraction of this amount. This is a major reason why resilience is important in the workplace. While you can’t decrease the amount of information you receive, it is possible to compartmentalize your cognitive load to optimize the way information is processed.

At work, be deliberate about what you do and when you do it. Allocate different types of work activities for different times of the day. For example, conduct high-level strategy meetings or difficult tasks during times when you’re more productive and allocate one hour to respond to emails. This helps the brain effectively process information and make quality decisions without overloading it. Small is beautiful; one small step amid the chaos of a busy day will help.

Be Compassionate Towards Yourself and Others

When you choose to build a recovery ritual, it may be challenging to maintain consistency with your new routine. Forming new habits is difficult, and you may even experience opposition from others when you set boundaries that help you build resilience. In these situations, compassion is key.

Adding compassion into your ritual is a great way to start practicing immediately. Compassion increases well being and decreases stress while also improving overall workplace culture and team morale. Take time at the end of each day to review what went well and congratulate yourself. This trains the mind to look for success rather than dwelling on negativity, mistakes and failure.

Give Yourself Adequate Internal Recovery Time

Try to find opportunities for internal recovery during the workday, such as a scheduled break or an unscheduled break if you feel your mental resources are depleted. This can be as simple as planning a restorative activity like taking a walk or listening to music for your lunch break. You may also consider blocking off time on your calendar to practice aspects of your resilience ritual. By considering your internal recovery time to be a vital part of your workday, you’ll start to prioritize your recovery, all while building resilience in the workplace.

How Businesses Can Help to Prevent Burnout & Build a More Resilient Workforce

Now that you’ve taken active steps towards incorporating resilience into your lifestyle, don’t keep the good news to yourself! Helping your employees understand ways to build resilience is essential to preventing burnout and building a more resilient workforce as a whole.

Educate People About Resiliency

Consider the ways you typically share information with your employees. For example, if you have a standing weekly or monthly meeting, use a portion of the time to provide information on building a resilience ritual. Encourage managers to understand that there are specific practices that can help them feel better, perform better and lead better. As the managers conduct meetings with their reports, they can help employees connect these resilience-focused behaviors to their health and improved job performance.

If you already plan recovery activities for your employees, adding resilience education as part of these events will be highly beneficial. Hiring a business motivational speaker for team-building events is a great way to cultivate an inspired and empowered workforce and a resilience speaker, in particular, can drive rapid positive change in your workforce.

Understanding the Pillars of Resilience

All aspects of resilience are not the same. Resilience is a multidimensional skill that affects many aspects of our internal and external experiences. 

Consider how resilience affects your:

  1. Emotional wellbeing. Are your views of yourself and the world healthy? Are you subconsciously pushing yourself to your limit because of deep-rooted harmful habits? These are questions that you and your employees can ask as you navigate the challenges of building a personal resilience ritual. You may uncover a barrier to resilience, such as negative automatic thoughts, which can impede your ability to properly recover and build resilience.
    Building emotional resilience in the workplace can often mean going against cultural norms of working long hours just for the sake of it, and you may be met with resistance at first. The best way to challenge these and improve emotional resilience is with physical tracking and correcting. Remember that ultimately, creating a resilient workplace has countless benefits for you and your employees.2
  2. Inner drive. A burnt-out employee will find it incredibly challenging to find the motivation to set and reach goals. Building resilience helps your employees reach goals more effectively while maintaining the momentum necessary to achieve better results. Without resilience, the ability for your employees to set goals and motivate themselves while utilizing a forward-thinking approach to progress will not be sustainable. Empowered, self-driven employees are essential for finding greater success and productivity at work and preventing things from becoming overwhelming. Without inner drive, people can often feel like projects are dragging and may not put their heart into them.3
  3. Future Focus. Evaluate your level of foresight. Can you focus on solutions and positive change? Opening your mind to change and adaptation will allow you and your employees to develop healthy responses to unexpected challenges and problems.
  4. Relationships. A strong social network can provide emotional and physical support. In addition to family and friends, colleagues can provide a unique level of support at work, as they can share in your experience and support you with accountability.
    At work, focus on addressing toxic relationships, building genuine connections, and finding or becoming a role model or mentor. Employees that utilize a personal resilience ritual are better equipped to encourage others to build a more positive work environment. If there are people who bring you and others down at work, think about ways to address the issue. Often, people don’t fully realize what they’re doing and how it affects others until someone else challenges it. Providing strategic feedback can help alleviate these issues
  5. Physical Health. Recognize the importance of looking after yourself physically, as poor physical wellbeing can directly impact the other pillars. Humans are psychosomatic beings, meaning that our mental health directly impacts our physical experience. Prioritizing resilience means supporting your employees in ways that encourage both mental and physical recovery.

Analyzing Strengths and Weaknesses

Developing resilience requires self-reflection. Help your employees to consider the pillars listed above and to implement practices that support each pillar. By understanding the pillars, both you and your employees are better prepared to analyze and improve productivity. You can also utilize the pillars as a framework when providing feedback to your employees.

Providing Resiliency-Building Opportunities at Work

Building resilience takes work, and your employees may need extra support as they begin to develop these new habits. Consider providing financial incentives, such as an on-site gym or reimbursements for fitness classes, to encourage exercise and to positively impact physical and mental wellbeing. 

Any investment into your employees’ personal development can ultimately benefit the productivity, culture and success of your company. There are many resilience programs to help people learn how to pause and quickly regain focus. These can be offered in a variety of ways, from self-guided online courses to on-site classes. You may want to invite resilience and leadership keynote speakers who are experts in this field to help motivate your team and prevent burnout.

Creating A Culture of Resilience with Adam Markel

For more guidance on creating a culture of resilience for your employees, browse the resources provided by Adam Markel, a business motivational speaker who is passionate about making the world a more resilient, peaceful and joyous place. To learn more about improving your approach to resilience, start with our resilience test here. When you’re ready to bring a resilience speaker to your next company event, consider Adam Markel as one of the world’s top leadership and resilience speakers.