3 keys to building a resilient workforce

In today’s ever-changing, fast-paced workplace, the word “resilience” has taken on a new importance. But what is resilience exactly? And how can companies help their employees become more resilient?

What is resilience?

Simply put, resilience is the ability to adapt to stressful situations: breakups, job losses, illnesses, the death of a loved one. Tough as these experiences are, most people manage to adapt over time. And that’s what resilience is: the ability to bounce back and overcome adversity.

Resilience isn’t about avoiding stressful situations. It’s about coping with them. Resilience can even help keep certain mental illnesses, like depression and anxiety, at bay.

Why workforce resilience is important

According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)1, 1 in 5 Canadians suffers a mental illness each year, and half a million Canadians miss work every single week for the same reason. Mental illness can lead to problems like absenteeism and presenteeism and is a leading cause of disability—which comes with a cost. A proactive approach to workplace mental health can help your employees and your bottom line.

The numbers speak for themselves. In Canada, 30% of disability claims and 70% of all disability costs are due to mental illness. In fact, on average, disability leaves due to mental illness cost about twice as much as disability leaves due to physical illness. With numbers like these, it only makes sense for companies to focus on building a resilient workforce.

3 ways to foster resilience in the workplace

Work can be stressful at the best of times, and it’s important for business leaders to acknowledge this. It’s especially important to bear in mind that in addition to stresses that can be going on at work, employees may be facing very real challenges at home.

All of these challenges can impact business success, but organizations have the ability to build a resilient workforce that can respond, adapt and overcome. The best part? Anyone can develop resilient thoughts and behaviours. Resilience is within everyone’s reach.

According to Deloitte Insights2, a people-first approach and solid planning can help organizations and their employees become more resilient.

1. Give employees a sense of belonging

Strong relationships that contribute to a sense of belonging are one of the keys to resilience. Many employees manage to build strong connections with colleagues, and the social support these strong interpersonal connections provide can help reduce stress and improve resilience.

With more people working from home than ever before, managers and employees have found creative ways to stay connected. And not just in person—strong connections can now be made and maintained through a wide range of collaboration tools. From daily scrums to informal lunchtime chats, discussion boards and regular one-on-ones, tools exist to meet the needs of any organization.

2. Give employees a sense of control

While there are always aspects of work that employees can’t control, employees who do feel a certain sense of ownership over events and outcomes at work often score high on resilience.

The sense of control employees feel when they are given the ability and flexibility to manage their own work tends to reduce anxiety and build resilience. And managers who encourage autonomy tend to be rewarded with a more creative, confident, productive and, above all, resilient workforce.

3. Demonstrate resilience yourself

Resilient leaders manage to stay focused on business while being truly empathetic. Employees need to understand and believe that leadership genuinely cares about them.

Resilient leaders are also transparent. Open, honest communications with employees go a long way. Be transparent about what the future might hold. Share how you’re coping yourself. Admit your own challenges and share how you’ve worked to overcome them to model resilience for your employees.

What comes next

No one has all the answers and no one can see into the future, but one thing is for sure: business leaders need to offer employees a mentally healthy workplace, no matter what that workplace looks like. An atmosphere of trust where employees feel empowered and connected—not just to their colleagues but also to leadership—reinforces resilience organization wide.

As important as it is for business leaders to create conditions that are conducive to employee resilience, employees can help in their turn by being open about their own challenges and needs. That way, business leaders can better understand how to support employee mental health and resilience.

Recommended for you