A Practical Approach to Resilience at Work

Work demands things of us. The job itself, colleagues, bosses, clients and suppliers all create pressure. If you can meet those demands, that’s fine. A little pressure can even be motivating. But demands that are difficult or impossible to meet create too much pressure, which in turn drives stress.

Luckily, when you’re resilient you are more able to manage the pressure, control the stress and meet the demands of your role. Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from difficulties. And it’s a trait that increasing numbers of us need to bring into play at work, a place where there are all sorts of personal and professional challenges to overcome.

We know from speaking to our clients that plenty of them would love to become more resilient under the everyday work pressures they face. While people’s ability to deal with stress differs, and it’s hard to be generic, we also believe there are some practical things you can do. And they’re not rocket science, either.

Here are some practical ways to grow your resilience at work. As it turns out, it’s about more than merely bouncing back.

First, what does a resilient person look like?

There’s a checklist for resilience, and it looks like this:

  • A person who is self-aware, who always knows how they’re feeling
  • Someone with a sense of purpose and direction, who likes to grow and develop
  • An individual who notices when pressure is starting to make them feel unhappy
  • Someone who is confident in their abilities and skills

Well-being and resilience go together

It’s interesting to note that well-being and resilience are close friends. But what does it mean in practice? You know that if you neglect yourself in terms of sleep, nutrition and exercise it has a negative influence all round on your ability to cope. If you are not comfortable, healthy and able to enjoy yourself at least sometimes each day – the three core requirements of well-being – resilience is more difficult to achieve.

Growing your resilience as an individual

Pacing is vital. Nobody, no matter how talented they are, can carry on working at a punishing pace indefinitely. When you’re in it for the long haul, pacing yourself becomes more than a ‘nice to have’, it’s essential. Sustainable pacing is the best way to survive.

You can’t control your pace unless you’re self-aware enough to know when you’re struggling, when you’ve hit a wall, when you’ve found a new source of energy, when you’re on a roll, when you’ve just about had enough. It’s about being mindful. This involves being aware of your own feelings, your motivations, your moods, the way they change over time and in response to various stimuli.

Once you know yourself well and are familiar with your internal landscape, you are much better able to handle yourself, control your feelings and come up with imaginative stress prevention and management tactics, of which there are many.

Here are some ideas that will help support your resiliency intentions

  • Learn mindfulness
  • Be realistic about what you can achieve
  • Find a few relaxation techniques that work for you
  • Take proper breaks
  • Disconnect properly after work – don’t let it bleed into your evenings and weekends
  • Do mono-tasking, not multi-tasking
  • Talk to other people – it can really help to discuss things with your fellow team members
  • Know that it’s a strength to ask for help, not a weakness
  • Know it’s OK to walk away from a stressful situation for a while, to give yourself time to think

Improving your resilience as a manager

As a manager your life is a whole lot more complex, since you’re responsible for more than just yourself. The people who depend on you for guidance and leadership each have their own strengths, foibles, levels of tolerance, and vulnerabilities. You need to take all of them into account and ensure everyone delivers results. At the end of the day it’s about the culture that you as a manager generate around you. You need to remain resilient in the face of these challenges. Your capability to do so sets the scene. Looking after your own well-being, energy levels and reactions becomes crucial in modelling a consistently resilient way forwards for those you manage.

Developing the resilience of the people who work for you is one of the best ways to hang onto employees who have the right values, protect their mental and physical well-being and help them deliver quality work consistently.

Managers who actively build cultures that are strong – in other words purposeful, challenging and supportive – actually promote their employees’ resilience and well-being. If you know the people who you manage as individuals, as people not just employees, you stand a much better chance of fostering environments that support them to be the best they can, thriving not just surviving.

These approaches contribute to making that notion a practical reality.

  • Create a positive management culture and workplace systems to prevent and reduce stress
  • Treat problems as learning opportunities, and use learning and development to help your people become more resilient
  • Set realistic goals and ensure everyone understands your expectations
  • Don’t turn a drama into a crisis
  • Be empathic, compassionate and kind towards the people you manage

Struggling to remain resilient?

If you’re struggling with your resilience at work, coaching can definitely help you develop this quality. Contact us to discuss the possibilities.