NSCA Foundation

7 tactics for building workplace resilience

By Dr John Kearney*
Tuesday, 11 June, 2019

7 tactics for building workplace resilience

Resilience — the ability to bounce back in the face of challenges — is crucial to combating stress, which recent studies have revealed as the most significant psychological hazard in the workplace.1 With one in five of us taking time off work because we feel stressed, anxious, depressed or mentally unhealthy2 — and this figure is more than twice as high (46%) for someone who considers their workplace mentally unhealthy3 — more awareness is needed to build personal resilience, particularly in these environments.

At Wesley Hospital Kogarah, there has been an increase in the number of people feeling overwhelmed by workplace stress, taking time off as a result. In our connected, always-on age, it is little wonder that many find it increasingly difficult to separate work and personal life. There is often a reluctance to share feelings of stress or not being able to cope in the workplace, because of the stigma attached.

While moderate stress can be a productive and motivating factor in the workplace, too much of it can risk burnout. This can have serious consequences, such as reduced productivity and performance, emotional exhaustion, a loss of empathy and increased absenteeism.

With chronic forms of workplace stress shown to increase a person’s risk of developing severe mental health conditions, such as depression,4 employers need to encourage self-care strategies among their workers to build resilience. Offering flexible working arrangements, including helping staff to better manage workloads, and promoting an open and trusting management style, will contribute to a more psychologically safe environment. In turn, this will inspire greater respect among employees, which can improve morale, develop mental agility and encourage employees to ask for help before they feel they need to take time off.

Here are seven important ways to help your employees manage and develop resilience in the workplace.

  1. Promote an open and trusting management style and environment. Regular catch-ups between managers and staff, support and training programs, and return-to-work programs can go a long way in ensuring your employees feel that their mental health is a workplace priority. Training managers considering the mental wellbeing of staff also creates an environment where staff feel more safe and comfortable.
  2. Offer flexible working arrangements. Whether it is flexible start and finish times to fit in with other commitments or the option to work from home once every couple of weeks, allowing flexibility is crucial for affording employees a sense of work-life balance, and time to fit in important lifestyle needs. This will give them a greater sense of agency over when they work, what they do and how they can work in relation to others.
  3. Encourage employees to take their lunch break. It may feel counterintuitive, but encouraging your employees to step away from their desk for 30 minutes each day can help them get more done. Short breaks enable the mind to reset and can do wonders to a person’s focus.
  4. Reward good work. Fulfilling careers are built on good experiences, and so management should ensure they reward their employees on their individual efforts. Rewarding good work will improve employee satisfaction, making them feel supported and empowered in their roles. It will also increase their productivity at work, particularly if they are aware of how their efforts create an impact on the organisation.
  5. Provide job security, and help your employees cope with change. If you know changes are looming, take time to listen carefully to your employees. Whether it is a major restructuring or a modification to a well-established procedure, change — especially when it threatens stable or comfortable routines — can be unsettling. If employees express their anxiety directly to you, remain transparent and honest about the process.
  6. Promote open communication and strong social networks. People thrive on friendships and good social interaction, so it is important to create a workplace where people enjoy coming to work. Having open communication, opportunities for team connectedness and social events, and celebrating wins and achievements, are the types of qualities that go into developing a supportive and constructive workplace culture.
  7. Get your staff moving. Research has shown that people who exercise regularly have better mental health and emotional wellbeing. As well as relaxing the mind, physical activity can improve people’s sense of control, coping ability and self-esteem. Creating healthy opportunities for your employees, like group yoga, fitness or meditation sessions, provides a healthy outlet for managing stress, as well as making for a pleasant working environment.

*Dr John Kearney is a clinical psychologist and Director of Psychological Services at Wesley Hospital Kogarah. With a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Sydney, Dr Kearney specialises in evidence-based treatment of depression, anxiety, mood, post-traumatic stress disorder and perinatal mental health. He consults government and non-government organisations, including Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Wesley Mission’s Mental Health and Resilience in the Workplace program is a unique training program designed by specialists to foster open communication and enhance resilience. For more information, visit https://bit.ly/2XNMXE0 or email Wesley LifeForce on resilience@wesleymission.org.au.

  1. Safe Work Australia, ‘Workplace mental health’ (Last modified on Wednesday 6 Feb 2019): https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/doc/infographic-workplace-mental-health.
  2. Beyond Blue, ‘State of Workplace Mental Health in Australia’, p.1: https://www.headsup.org.au/docs/default-source/resources/bl1270-report---tns-the-state-of-mental-health-in-australian-workplaces-hr.pdf?sfvrsn=8
  3. Beyond Blue, ‘State of Workplace Mental Health in Australia’, p. 1: https://www.headsup.org.au/docs/default-source/resources/bl1270-report---tns-the-state-of-mental-health-in-australian-workplaces-hr.pdf?sfvrsn=8
  4. Informed Health Online. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. ‘Depression: What is burnout?’ 5 Dec 2012. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279286/.

Top image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/radiorio

NSCA Foundation is a member based, non-profit organisation working together with members to improve workplace health and safety throughout Australia. For more information and membership details click here
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