The number of people reporting that they feel stressed at work has led to claims that we are experiencing a stress epidemic. Regardless of whether you agree with this statement, it can’t be denied that stress affects every one of us, at one time or another, and that it can be debilitating.
We believe that the psychological know-how needed to manage stress effectively and build personal resilience should be available to all. Thankfully this is something we can all learn and the results can have transformative effects in our work and personal lives. This, in turn, can have huge implications for those around us and the places where we work.
Here, we look at what happens when resilience is taught in the workplace:
Reduced sick rates
According to the HSE, over 12.5 million working days are lost each year to stress, depression, and anxiety. Not only is the cost of this a huge financial drain for businesses, it reduces productivity and piles pressure on other employees.
As well as the immediate days lost through the mental health issues stress can cause, prolonged stress causes a number of physical health problems which can create a need for further time off work. These include the more commonly recognised serious illnesses, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stomach ulcers, but also periods of relentless stress increase the likelihood of catching a cold or the flu.
A recent study found that stress not only increases the risk of mental and physical health problems, but that it also has extremely concerning consequences for those who have already been diagnosed with some conditions. The research discovered that work stress, in particular, stress associated with lack of control over demands, increases the risk of early death in men who have been diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease, or who have previously been diagnosed with a stroke.
Teaching individuals how to manage and prevent stress effectively builds their resilience and empowers them to take control of their own wellbeing and reduces the risks associated with stress-related illness. This has positive benefits both for the individual and the organisation reducing time off work as well as the associated cost of days lost, disruption to productivity due to reduced staff numbers or presenteeism, and the negative impact team cohesion.
Increased motivation, productivity and wellbeing
Stress is often linked to feelings of overwhelm and lack of control. When experiencing stress, people can find it difficult to take charge, be motivated and connect with positive emotions and other people. These characteristics of stress lead to a sense of learned helplessness which can keep people stuck in the chronic stress cycle.
Teaching resilience skills in the workplace builds confidence and self-efficacy, a self-belief in which we believe that we can change things for ourselves. A study of self-efficacy and behaviour change in relation to exercise shows that starting to make a change to how we do things helps us to grow in self-efficacy and confidence. Whether the change is to our exercise behaviour or to how we manage pressure and demand, just making a change can build motivation for further change. Where resilience is concerned this will lead to greater productivity and wellbeing – both in work and at home.
Associated organisational outcomes of teaching people these skills are a more resilient workforce. Employees are more likely to be innovative, seeing challenge as opportunity. They are more likely to manage their workload effectively and achieve objectives. They are better able to cooperate and work well with other people contributing to more stable and successful teams.
Smoother organisational change
Organisations often go through periods of change, whether it’s to adapt to the ever-evolving economic climate or to accommodate internal pressures. Even the introduction of a new member of staff, or the implementation of a new policy, can upset the equilibrium.
When this happens it can be distressing for staff and quickly result in low morale.
Resilience training teaches people how to manage difficult emotional responses to change, to remain optimistic and think flexibly about the true threats of the change and to look after themselves through the process.
At an organisational level, resilient leaders use emotional and social intelligence to create safety and are able to support staff through change. This builds team resilience and belonging and enhances team cooperation and performance. Resilient leaders who understand the processes involved in adaptation to change use a range of leadership styles flexibly to get the best out of staff during periods of organisational upheaval.
Increased staff retention
When employees feel that they have been invested in, they feel valued. And, when that investment is to safeguard their wellbeing, they feel cared for. Ensuring your employees feel valued and cared for is a key component of cultivating job satisfaction, and job satisfaction reduces the chances of them looking for another job – leaving you with a position to fill and the associated recruitment costs.
Creating a positive environment for your employees also helps you to attract the best talent when you do need to recruit for new roles. Organisations obtain reputations fuelled by what their employees say about them and in this age of social media, especially with sites such as Glassdoor available, how well you look after the people who work for you does not go unnoticed.
Resilience training teaches both staff and managers the skills to build supportive networks. At an individual level we know that work environments where there is high support as well as high challenge lead to employees experiencing greater passion, enthusiasm and motivation for work as well as improved focus and engagement in the work. This builds resilience, and leaves them less likely to move on to another job. Resilient leaders using adaptable and resonant leadership styles can grow social capital by creating a shared vision, enhancing productivity and success, and growing team cohesion which are all important for staff retention.
If this all sounds like something your organisation could use then it’s time to introduce resilience training for your staff. Get in touch today to discuss how we can help, or click here to find out more about our training programmes.
All of the claims in this article are found on robust academic studies. If you would like any information on the research please get in touch.