Director at Sodexo Engage Sodexo Engage
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Employee wellbeing: training teams to be resilient during difficult times

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A more human-centred approach to work needs to be adopted if we’re to build resilience during these turbulent times.

21st Jan 2021
Director at Sodexo Engage Sodexo Engage
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This year has been hard. Most of us have struggled with the upheaval of our daily lives, but as with every life experience, each of us has been affected differently. For some of us, the pandemic has meant isolation and loneliness, for others ill health and grief. At times it has pushed us to new levels and the strength to be able to bounce back from adversity can seem like an unattainable superpower that many of us feel we don’t possess – but this simply isn’t true.

Resilience training provides staff with tips for getting on top of stress triggers and managing the symptoms to build personal resilience.

During the pandemic, statistics from the Mental Health Foundation showed that 64% of us were coping well, with nearly 90% of us using strategies to help stay calm. It’s these strategies that make people resilient – our ability to learn coping techniques that contribute to good mental wellbeing is what allows us to adapt and grow. In the workplace, resilience is critical. It’s not about being robotic or unemotional though – it’s quite the opposite – and it can be learned.

Why resilience matters at work

Resilience is a highly sought-after quality in candidates. It’s the ability to spring back from difficulties, a flexibility when life throws the unexpected at you and it’s critical for good mental wellbeing and happiness.

In most jobs the working day is not the same day in, day out – occasionally they’ll be crises and sometimes employees will make slip-ups and mistakes, but this is ok. Resilience isn’t about perfection or not making mistakes, it’s about thinking calmly when looking for solutions and learning from experiences.

An ability to manage stress well is crucial at work – it can help prevent the dreaded burnout, improve working relationships and give an all-important confidence boost.

Resilience training

Of course, telling your team to manage stress better won’t go down well and it’s certainly not an easy thing to just start doing. It is possible to offer resilience training to your team, however. Personal resilience training is often about learning how to manage stress and this begins with recognising triggers. These can include heavy workload, conflicts at work, job insecurity and, right now, the not so little thing of a global pandemic.

It’s also super important to train employees to recognise the signs of stress. These can include feeling wound up, tetchy, exhausted and depressed. Stress can be pretty insidious, so sometimes a person might not be aware they are experiencing it until it’s too late and they’re totally burned out. Many people, desperate to maintain a cool, calm façade, are not ready to face up to their anxiety.

Resilience training provides staff with tips for getting on top of stress triggers and managing the symptoms to build personal resilience. If the trigger is an Everest-sized workload for example, it’ll be worthwhile teaching the team how to manage to-do lists and priorities. Prioritising isn’t always intuitive and sometimes team members need clarity on what’s urgent and what can be left until tomorrow. Sometimes there’s a feeling of pressure that everything needs to be wrapped up in a day’s work and there aren’t enough hours in the day.  Doing longer, more challenging tasks in the morning, when bright eyed and bushy tailed after the first coffee of the day, can make the afternoons less intense.

If staff are struggling with conflicts in work, it’s important to hammer home that communication is key. Resilience training should also instill self-confidence in the team, so your people know that discussing issues such as conflicts or mental health-related concerns with managers shouldn’t be feared. People often get nervous about discussing such things as they feel it’s taboo, but it’s important to remove that stigma in your office.

Of course, not all resilience can be learned. Some people find it easier to bounce back and manage stress. This may be down to genetics or life experience. If employees are suffering badly from anxiety and really struggling with the burdens of work and life at the moment, it can’t be forgotten that we are dealing with the daily background fear of the pandemic and it’s vital you make staff aware of the support available. The team shouldn’t feel rudderless and exposed in the workplace, as this will only increase the risk of losing control of stress or breaking down. Employee assistance programmes can be a really useful resource, as they often include counselling services and useful stress management tools and tips.

It’s ok to not be ok

Most importantly, the team need to know that having off days is ok. ‘Resilience’ and resilience training can sometimes worry staff as the word is often used in the wrong context. Being ‘resilient’ is associated with having a stiff upper lip and staying totally collected and unfazed at all times. In reality, it’s about being able to adapt when life throws a curveball.

Work shouldn’t feel like adversity and many of us have bigger fish to fry at the moment. Of course, it’s important the team perform their best and deliver, but they also need to think about the bigger picture. This means knowing when to switch off and take care of wellbeing, including the basics like a good night’s sleep and enough exercise, which often get neglected when we’re hung up about work things. Remind your people that they come first and, when they realise this, resilience will feel more within reach.

Interested in this topic? Read Team cohesion: building resilient teams that survive conflict.

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By Andy
23rd Jan 2021 11:11

Resilience is important and I don't think there's a simple answer. When we looked at it, for us, it made sense to recognise that resilience comes from wellness/wellbeing and that there are different areas/dimensions we can address to improve our overall wellness which in turn leads to more resilience. You can see these dimensions in our video https://youtu.be/UgizCwaeFZs

I think it's also important to stress that it's a personal responsibility and not something that others can do for you. Support is important, of course, but it's still a personal endeavour.

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