Most of us work in constantly connected, always-on, highly demanding work cultures where stress and the risk of burnout are widespread. Our current work culture is a direct reflection of the increasing complexity and demands faced by businesses globally.
Since the pace and intensity of contemporary work culture are not likely to change, it’s necessary to understand importance of resilience skills to effectively navigate one’s work-life and increase organizational productivity.
RESILIENCE – The capacity to prepare for disruptions, recover from shocks and stresses and adapt and grow from a disruptive experience.
Why is it important to focus on Resilience?
The World Health Organization describes stress as the “global health epidemic of the 21st century with depression with one of the major causes of deaths across the world by 2030.
In a study conducted by IBM Institute for Business Value in late 2015, a survey of 5,247 business executives from 21 industries in over 70 countries reported that the “scope, scale and speed” of their businesses were increasing at an accelerated rate, especially as the competitive landscape becomes increasingly disrupted by technology and radically different business models. The result is at times a frenetic way of working. Being hyperconnected and responsive to work anytime, anywhere, can be extremely taxing.
In a 2014 global survey of Human Capital Trends conducted by Deloitte, 57% of respondents said that their organizations are “weak” when it comes to helping leaders manage difficult schedules and helping employees manage information flow, and that there is an urgent need to address this challenge.
A survey of over 100,000 employees across Asia, Europe, Africa, North America, and South America found that employee depression, stress and anxiety accounted for 82.6% of all emotional health cases in Employee Assistance Programs in 2014, up from 55.2% in 2012.
Also, a recent large-scale, longitudinal survey of over 1.5 million employees in 4,500 companies across 185 countries conducted as part of the Global Corporate Challenge found that approximately 75% of the workforce experienced moderate to high stress levels — and more specifically, that 36% of employees reported feeling highly or extremely stressed at work, with a further 39% reporting moderate levels of workplace stress. This over a 12-year period also found, that while 63% of extremely stressed employees reported above-average productivity, this number rises significantly to 87% amongst those who say they are not at all stressed. In the same study, 77% of extremely stressed employees also reported above-average levels of fatigue, and early warning signs of longer-term burnout.
It’s clear that stress and burnout related to the increasing pace and intensity of work are on the rise globally and it should be cause for concern, as there is a direct and adverse relationship between negative stress, wellness and productivity and business success.
As companies, we are focusing on distribution of work, operations optimization, performance management system and employee engagement with one common objective – Increasing productivity! However, it is also important to address the factors and build skills to manage these factors that cause us to feel so overwhelmed and stressed at work.
The good news is…
Basically, we as people are productive and contributing human beings. When we’re faced with a task, the task and its solution provide us with meaning as a concrete productive activity. However, it requires us to overcome the challenge to enable us to see that it can be resolved in a satisfactory manner. Thus, our belief in ourselves grows stronger when it comes to handling future tasks. Today resilience is a concept that is quickly gaining ground in large multinational companies because:
- Resilient organisations can maintain or restore their structure and function under extreme pressure as they absorb the disruption. They can respond quickly to feedback and in a flexible way convert and distribute knowledge and resources without losing their identity, while still delivering bottom line results. Resilient organisations are able to navigate in a “VUCA world”, which is characterised by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.
- Resilient employees have a better ability to fight off stress and illness and are physically healthier and therefore, less absenteeism and more productivity
- Resilient employees have developed ways to handle setbacks and bounce back in difficult situations
- Resilient employees perform better under stress, keep a steady head during difficult decision making and therefore are more productive
So how can we develop resilience in the face of chronic negative stress and constantly increasing demands, complexity and change?
Resilience in individuals derives from a cluster of diverse internal strengths as well as an external social and physical environment that fosters growth and opportunities for success. At the same time, a resilient organization is not just a collection of resilient individuals. Organizational resilience emerges from the collective actions and interactions of these individuals within a climate of trust. Leaders and managers play a key role in modeling resilience and creating a supportive team environment for individuals to thrive
Resilience is a concept you can work on at an individual, social and organisational level with multiple meanings.
Here are some tips, based on some of the latest neuroscience, behavioral and organizational research:
Making Resilient Choices
In an unpredictable world, it’s only by continuously making choices and acting on them that we can be productive, see the way forward and focus on what’s important. Productivity is about being able to make strategic choices throughout the organisation, free of captivating thinking patterns.
Inclusive & Fair Systems
Working with existing systems and making them more robust, fair and productive to provide inclusive services and reduce the vulnerability of those who live by them.
Promoting ‘Social Resilience’
“Social resilience” is about the ability to collectively be able to adapt to changing circumstances through effective choices. It’s a social capacity that requires strong relations and a constructive, common mental framing of reality. If you are to accept reality as it is, you need to look at it clearly and not let your interpretations get disrupted by negative, fixed and distorted thinking patterns.
Building ‘Psychological Capital’
Building psychological capital is the best possible way to resist and overcome the challenges you will inevitably encounter in a VUCA world – while being productive. People in the business world are increasingly turning their attention to mental training practices associated with mindfulness as they are enhancing overall employee well-being and organizational performance.
Culture of Compassion
One of the most overlooked aspects of the resilience skill set is the ability to cultivate compassion-both self-compassion and compassion for others.
The ability to build resilience is a skill that will serve you well in an increasingly stressful work world. And companies stand to benefit from a more resilient workforce. Building an organizational culture that encourages and supports resilience training makes a long-term performance tactic and a good business sense.