How To Help Your Employees Develop Resilience And Reduce Stress

Employees suffering from stress is a major cause for concern for many employers as it greatly affects an employee’s performance and productivity which then affects costs, especially if time off work is necessary. It can be one of the most damaging elements of wellbeing to your workforce. Developing resilience is a very useful tool for combatting stress and supporting employees to remain effective and working to a high standard. 

Resilience is defined as the ability to adapt to and recover from setbacks, whether personal or professional. Those lacking in resilience can struggle much more if they have a bad day or negative experience, throwing them out of focus and having a knock-on effect on their self-worth, their attitude towards their job, and their performance. It can also make it difficult for them to handle change well. 

Research is showing that organisations failing to focus on emotional resilience and employee wellbeing suffer with difficulties in recruitment and retention, on top of issues with overall performance and productivity. Whereas, in cases where employers are removing some of the barriers around stress management and are working to help employees develop their resilience, their workforce is able to adapt effectively and keep productivity high. 

Resilience Training

Resilience training can be costly, especially where it needs to be bought in and carried out onsite, or where staff don’t take the opportunity to attend as they are worried about the consequences of admitting that they’re struggling. However, it can be incredibly useful in terms of equipping employees with the tools they need to adapt their reactions and stop that downward spiral, and instead focus on problem solving and the steps they need to take. 

Developing resilience goes hand-in-hand with developing emotional intelligence and becoming attuned to your emotions and reactions. This helps massively with understanding and appreciating different perspectives and approaches to situations, and therefore, handling change, conflict, or interpersonal situations much more effectively and with far less stress. It also encourages employees to recognise when they are struggling so they can deal with it before it escalates. 

If it isn’t cost effective to buy in onsite, face-to-face resilience training programmes, there are still other options, such as online resilience training or tools, so no onsite or expert presence is needed. This method could also support employees more as they can work at their own pace, in their own time, in private, and in whatever learning/studying style suits them best.

Another option is to elevate an existing staff member who is passionate and knowledgeable about how to build resilience, mindfulness, and so on, or hire such an expert, to work with others internally in small groups or individually, thereby reducing some of the costs. A further option would be to split the costs between multiple organisations and run a larger programme at once.

Support Strategies

Building a workforce where asking for help is simply part of the culture, with no stigma or worry attached, creates a more supportive environment for all and leads to better outcomes. Therefore, one of the most important steps you can take to help your employees build resilience and reduce stress is to ensure you offer a culture and environment where admitting that you’re struggling, that you’re having some mental health difficulties or asking for help, are part of the norm and in no way reflect negatively or impact your career. After all, everyone struggles with their mental wellbeing at one time or another, and just because someone is struggling with their mental health, it doesn’t mean they can’t carry out their job role to a high standard or perform well, especially if they are receiving appropriate support. 

This sort of culture or model begins from the top and filters down, with seniors expected to attend the same resilience training and also with managers receiving training to not only support their own resilience, emotional intelligence, etc. but also to aid them in supporting others. Line managers in particular need to be able to recognise warning signs in their teams and create an open and trusting rapport with them, so those who are struggling do ask for help. With training, line managers can also support by sharing their own knowledge and experience, or signpost to the relevant party. 

AXA PPP Healthcare carried out a survey in 2015, where 69% of managers admitted that they didn’t feel poor mental health was a valid reason to be off work, despite the Equality Act of 2010 highlighting the importance of supporting and not discriminating against those with a mental health difficulty. If employees don’t feel secure in admitting they are struggling or need help, if they feel they need to ‘push through’ at all costs, then they’re risking burnout and more severe difficulties. Too much stress causes people to make mistakes, struggle to make decisions, affects their ability to concentrate, as well as the physical side-effects. If you create an environment where people know they will be supported and so feel safe in asking for help, steps can be put in place before the situation gets worse, before it affects performance and costs.

Support strategies could also include:

  • Employee Assistance Programmes – providing information and practical support on everyday issues, including confidential counselling and emotional support
  • Flexible work arrangements – including changing the nature of their days, a more flexible schedule
  • Financial education and support – leading to shedding a major stressor, peace of mind and reducing worry about finances, and a greater understanding of debt management or budgeting, for example.

Professional Development and Support

Working with staff and focusing on their professional development, can help improve their confidence and career satisfaction, which in turn can lead to greater productivity and job performance, a more positive attitude to their work/career and have a positive impact on their emotional wellbeing and resilience. 

Such development can include outside or internal training, attending courses and workshops, completing programmes such as ‘emerging leaders’ or working towards advanced practitioner status, or working in-house with mentors or peer-coaches – this latter two also have the benefit of providing further social support and aiding the creation/maintenance of an inclusive, supportive culture.

It could also include a focus around work/life balance, such as monitoring the number of hours worked, encouraging self-care activities and healthy habits, modelling such things yourself, teambuilding activities, community-based activities such as volunteering on a project, or even longer/flexible breaks to encourage staff to take a walk or time for the gym, and so on.

Final Word

As you can see, there are many ways to support employees develop their resilience and reduce stress. We all know that working in education can be a very stressful career, but steps can be taken to ensure that stress stays manageable and doesn’t affect a person’s performance or the quality of teaching and learning our learners experience. 

Harvard Business Review says, “Resilience is a critical ingredient of workplace success”, and it can have so many benefits across so many areas. The key to success is putting employee’s wellbeing at the centre: helping them do their job to the best of their abilities by giving them the tools to adapt, to balance and to learn.

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