Building resilience in the workplace

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Everyone needs to be resilient when it comes to working. Even those who love what they do are sure to face obstacles outside of their control. Resilience is defined as “the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change, and keep going in the face of adversity”. It doesn’t mean failing – it means failing but learning and thriving because of it.

Resilience when it comes to work has become increasingly topical over the last few years with phenomena such as burnout being recognised and studied. Now, in the midst of the global pandemic of COVID-19, it is more important than ever. Coronavirus has brought along numerous stresses, such as uncertainty about our economic future, adjusting to enforced working from home, and homeschooling children to name but a few. To get through it best we can, resilience is key at an individual, organisational, and national level. So how do you personally develop and build it?

1. Respond, don’t react, to stress

Being challenged and pushed out of your comfort zone is what activates resilience as a skill set. A healthy level of stress can be a good motivator and push you to perform at your optimum level, but only if you have the mental agility and tools to manage the situation. A negative reaction to stress tends to be instinctive and emotionally driven. Instead, try to objectively assess the situation and respond accordingly. The more you successfully navigate stressful situations, no matter how insignificant, the more you’ll trust your ability to deal with them and bounce back.

2. Give yourself a break

You’re only human. It’s normal to make mistakes, to get overwhelmed, or to let your emotions get the better of you. Never showing emotion isn’t being resilient; acknowledging your emotions in the face of adversity and bouncing back from them is. Allow yourself to be as compassionate to yourself as you would be to a friend going through the same thing.

3. Establish a healthy work/life balance

If your self-esteem and feeling of purpose is tethered to one thing, i.e. work, it’ll be much harder on you if something goes wrong. Having perspective about what’s important in life and having multiple sources of joy and fulfilment will help keep you on an even keel, even when one aspect of your life is going through a rocky patch. Negative stress and feeling overwhelmed has been linked to the hyper-connectivity that modern technology has brought to the workplace; many people feel they need to be online and accessible 24/7.

If you’re now adjusting to working from home, it’s important to draw clear boundaries between work and personal time, just as you would if you were in the office. Ultimately, you’ll be more productive, happy, and resilient to external stresses.

4. Prioritise your physical and mental health

Resilience is about long-term health and happiness. Look after yourself by exercising regularly, getting fresh air, and eating mindfully, and you’ll see an immediate effect on how well you cope with stress or anxiety. Tackling physical and mental health holistically is the best way to set yourself up to handle any situation that’s thrown at you. Get creative about how to exercise throughout the day – do short bursts of activity when your eyes need a rest from the screen or go for a long walk at lunchtime.

5. Reach out to your support network

Resilience doesn’t mean shouldering the burden on your own. Talking through a difficult situation with others can help you see new perspectives, brainstorm different action plans, and take the necessary actions to connect with the right types of people that will help you feel emotionally supported – all of which help combat short-term obstacles and build long-term resilience.

6. Devise your comeback plan

Once you’ve reflected on the situation, don’t wallow in negative thinking. Work now to plan for the future, give yourself clear outcomes, so you have a strong vision of what your career and life will look like. Keeping this in mind will help keep you on track and motivated. Retaining an optimistic outlook, and exploring new opportunities and ways of doing things, no matter what is a key factor in building resilience.