Employee stress remains at a record-high level across the world (1) while mental stress claims in Australia have a median time off work of almost 27 weeks, compared to just 7 weeks for all serious claims (21).
There’s no doubt that stress is a major problem in the workplace. It can come at the cost of employee wellbeing and organisational productivity and performance.
Organisations are leaning into what they can do to help combat stress but it can seem impossible in today’s constant competing pressures.
What if there was a way for your organisation and its people to not only cope with stress, but thrive?
This article covers the fundamental role resilience has with workplace stress and 4 ways you can start building resilience in your teams and organisation.
What is workplace stress?
Work-related stress takes place when the demands of work exceed the resources we have for managing those demands (7). Experiencing stress from time to time is a natural part of our working lives and in moderate amounts, stress can have a positive impact on our performance (7).
However, when stress is excessive and ongoing, it becomes a problem (8) and can potentially impact a person’s physical, emotional and mental wellbeing (9) as well as the performance of a business (10).
So, what can you do to help your workforce manage workplace stress?
Building resilience has been recognised as an effective strategy to help manage workplace stress.
Studies have confirmed the connection between resilience and workplace stress and wellbeing, with results showing that resilient individuals experience lower stress and report higher wellbeing (11).
Resilience is already on the radar of HR Practitioners and Consultants in Australia. In a recent study supported by the Australian HR Institute (AHRI) HR practitioners and consultants were asked about the recent and future priorities dominating HR and employee resilience was expected to be more important than in previous years (6).
What is resilience?
Resilience is our ability to continually stand up if we have been knocked down, and it has been described as a person's ability to ‘bounce back’ (12). It consists of multiple factors including an individual’s thoughts, feelings, behaviours, actions, and skills (14).
Resilience is about more than just coping, it’s about being malleable, adapting and learning from different types of experiences (14), and moving forward in a positive way. In the workplace this equates to an individual being able to manage various tasks (8) from challenging colleagues to a difficult workload.
Building resilience - 4 simple ways you can start
Here’s four self-development strategies team members can start using at work to help build their personal resilience and manage stress.
1. Build Positive Work Relationships
An important part of building resilience is social support (14), and maintaining relationships is a big part of that.
Building a professional network is vital in the workplace. The relationships individuals build and maintain can be a source of support and guidance during high stress periods.
Experiencing stress isn’t always easy to handle. During stressful experiences, resilient people (15) have been found to draw on positive emotions (16) to help them manage these.
Engaging in positive emotions and laughing more often are connected to improved emotional and physical outcomes (16) and it has been suggested that this can also lessen stress by reducing negative emotion.
Building resilience also involves seeing the potential benefits (14) of an experience instead of focusing on the negative aspects of the situation. Overall, having a positive outlook and increasing positive emotions can enable team members to better adapt to adversity and feel a sense of control when it comes to their work environment.
3. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence has been described as the ability to understand your own emotional needs as well as the emotional needs of the people you encounter in your workplace (14). Understanding your emotional needs (17), reactions and the effect on others can help you to gain awareness of how to better cope with adversity and stress.
The first step involves understanding your emotional state, which includes your positive and negative emotions. This can help in developing resilience and finding different ways of coping (16) for future experiences. A great way to do this is to begin journaling and using strategies that involve self-reflection (17).
4. Purpose at work and work-life balance
The concept and benefits of finding purpose at work and living a balanced life have been documented in the past. These factors also contribute to building resilience.
Finding meaning or purpose in your work and feeling that it’s contributing to a greater good has been linked to developing resilience as it can act as a buffer against the effect of stress (18).
Creating a healthy work-life balance has also been identified as an important part of building personal resilience. Having time to relax and unwind is important, especially in this current age where it’s possible to stay digitally connected to work at all times. Taking time out to participate in activities outside of work which are emotionally and physically nurturing can restore the energy levels you need to feel your best and be resilient.
Resilience is a mindset and skill that can be learnt.
When organisations invest in helping their people build personal resilience they have the tools to better manage stress and challenges, not only at work but throughout their lives, allowing them to move from coping to thriving.
At Iswara, we provide evidence-based mental fitness and wellbeing programs to empower organisations and their people to reach their potential.
Our leading corporate wellbeing program, “Thriving Minds”, provides your organisation with 24/7 access to easy-to-use digital strategies and tools that reduce stress and increase overall wellbeing so your people and your business can thrive.
To find out more, head to our website.
- State of the Global Workplace 2023 Report by Gallup
- 2021 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing (ABS 2022a)
- Mental Health Australia & KPMG (2018)
- Creating a mentally healthy workplace - PWC (2014)
- Productivity Commission Inquiry Report Mental Health Volume 1 No. 95, 30 June 2020
- The State of the Human Resource Profession in Australia 2022 Report
- Stress in the workplace | APS (psychology.org.au)
- Resilience—a survival tool for the nineties - Giordano - 1997 - AORN Journal - Wiley Online Library
- Resilience in the Workplace: How to Be Resilient at Work (positivepsychology.com)
- CEDA 2022 Report: MENTAL HEALTH AND THE WORKPLACE: HOW CAN EMPLOYERS IMPROVE PRODUCTIVITY THROUGH WELLBEING?
- Safe Work Australia. (2021) Australian Workers’ Compensation Statistics 2019-20 https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/default/files/2021-11/Final%20Australian%20Workers%20%20Compensation%20Statistics%202019-20.pdf