Are you resilient? Resilience is fast gaining currency in more progressive workplaces. As the impact of stress at work becomes more clear – the Health and Safety Executive estimates it costs the economy over £6bn a year – and as the workforce ages, there is an increasing emphasis on staying power, lasting the distance and on being able to bounce back from stressful situations. But what makes some people more able to cope with the pressures of changing work demands and ways of working in a rapidly changing world? According to experts, resilience is not an innate characteristic, but can be learnt. Tips on how to build resilience include asking for help, knowing your strengths and limitations and not beating yourself up when things go wrong.
Abha Maryada Banerjee is rated one of the top 10 life, business and success coaches in the Asia Pacific and has been recognised as a leading figure in personal development and leadership in the US. She says building resilience at work involves understanding yourself, your goals and motivations and the culture in which you are working.
She says women, for instance, face a lot of unconscious bias in the workplace and have to build up resilience to deal with that. They may also need to overcome other people’s views and expectations of them with regard to caring – whether that be childcare or elder care – and find out what it is that they really want. “In India, it is still presumed by some that if a woman gets married her life is finished. It is almost as if she has stopped breathing,” she says. Maternal guilt is a huge issue too, caused by social expectations. “We need to get beyond that,” she says.
Resilience and well being
However, the interest in resilience in the workplace is not just one for individual employees to grapple with. Businesses are increasingly broadening their work life balance agenda to embrace well being and resilience is a key part of this.
A 2013 report by Towers Watson, a global professional services company, found employers are increasingly trying to alleviate employee stress by better engaging employees through their health and wellbeing programmes. Its survey shows that over 40 per cent of employers already have stress management programmes in place and an additional 31 per cent planned to introduce them over the following two years. They say an emphasis on prevention is part of a growing awareness of the impact of stress on productivity.
The survey found a link between stress and work life balance. Almost all (98 per cent) of employers that can measure wellbeing felt stress was an issue for their workforce, while a similar percentage (97 per cent) believed work-life balance was also an issue. It suggested that improving the mental health of workers was the second highest priority for employers (62 per cent), with raising employee engagement being their number one priority.
The majority of employers believed excessive workload and/or long hours are the most significant causes of stress, with some 86 per cent citing this as an issue. The expanding role of technology – facilitating access outside normal working hours – was named as the second highest cause of stress (76 per cent). Other causes were: lack of work-life balance (75 per cent); inadequate staffing (63 per cent); fears about job loss (58 per cent); and lack of support or training (30 per cent).
Women’s career progression
There has also been interest in the links between resilience and career progression, particularly for women. Earlier this year Nationwide and Vodafone sponsored the first major study linking personal resilience, gender and career success. It aims to help organisations understand how and why some men and women get to the top.
It asked a number of questions, including how much difference does resilience really make to women’s career success? How is career resilience defined for women and men and what helps successful career women and men develop their resilience?
Sarah Bond and Dr Gillian Shapiro who carried out the study said: “We talk a lot of resilience as a health and well-being issue, but little work has been done on the role of resilience in getting to the top of organisations. We simply don’t know why, if, or how men and women are different in this respect. What we do know, from speaking with business leaders, is that resilience is crucial to success.”
Good Day at Work, an organisation for people in HR which is led by Professor Cary Cooper, an expert in workplace stress and its cost to business, will be publishing a ten-page download on the topic of mental resilience this month [September]. The aim is to raise the profile of mental resilience, its significance for both work and family life and to take a detailed look at some of the everyday ways people cope with an increasingly hectic pace of life.
It’s another step forward towards dealing with an issue which is likely to be at the centre of employee well-being over the next decades.