Building resilience is vital for your wellbeing, not only in the workplace but also in everyday life.

But what is resilience, why is it so important, and what is the best way for you, as a leader or people manager, to go about building it, not only within yourself but also within your people?

  1. What is resilience?
  2. Why is resilience important in the workplace?
  3. How do you build resilience?
  4. How to build resilience in others at work

What is resilience?

There are many ways to describe what resilience is – one of our favourites is “Bounce-Back-Ability”.

That’s your ability to pick yourself up from life’s knocks and setbacks, and carry on despite the circumstances you’re facing.

What if less things knocked you down? What if you felt more able to take those setbacks in your stride in the first place? That’s resilience and it’s a crucial characteristic for leaders, and something all people managers should look to build within their teams

Resilience comes from maintaining a balance. A balance between the total load you’re experiencing – your stresses, worries, upsets and frustrations (the stuff that gets under your skin and steals your energy) – and the resources that help you to manage this load.

These resources can be within yourself, like your ability to clear away niggling worries without dwelling on them, or prioritise a good night’s sleep no matter what’s going on in your life.

Resources can also be outside of you, such as being able to talk through your challenges with someone supportive, gaining their insight or advice.

Why is resilience important in the workplace?

Every employee, whatever their role is and whatever department they work in, can benefit from developing their resilience.

Everyone will experience setbacks, so the ability to come out the other side, maybe even stronger than you were before, is something that you can utilise for your whole life, both inside and outside of work.

In the workplace, resilience can help people recover from challenging experiences while also assisting their growth and development.

As a leader, if you can foster a team of resilient individuals, you can lay a solid foundation for high performance

How do you build resilience?

Building resilience is about maintaining that balance between the total load you’re experiencing, and the resources that help you manage this load.

The more loads you’re experiencing, or the bigger an individual load, the more it stretches your resources, and the more likely it is to cause discomfort and distress.

A lot of situations are also outside your control. So, if you’re relying on changing the load to feel better, you might well end up stuck – which is not a pleasant feeling.

Once that balance starts to wobble, and your resources start getting used up faster than you’re adding to them, the quicker it can start to snowball.

So, one of the most important things to maintain your resilience – that balance between the load and your resources – is to be proactive.

Even when you’re doing OK, keep on topping up your resources – however you like.

Use the following proactive pointers to develop your resilience.

1. Focus on your physical wellbeing

Physical wellbeing and resilience have a mutually beneficial relationship.

Good physical wellbeing provides a strong foundation for effective resilience. By looking after your physical health, you can protect your mental health and reduce feelings of stress.

Prioritise your physical wellbeing by:

  • Getting the recommended amount of exercise
  • Making sure you’re getting a good amount of high-quality sleep
  • Eating a balance, nutritious diet

2. Lean on your support system

Your support system around is one of you’re the most important external factors when it comes to developing resilience.

Having people to talk to, whether things are going well or badly, can make any load feel a little lighter.

Use this worksheet to identify those people you can lean on when your loads are getting on top of you. This could be family, friends, colleagues, even your manager.

3. Stay aware of stress

We’re going to get stressed sometimes, and not all stress is bad – a certain amount of stress can even be healthy.

However, if we allow stress to dominate our lives, it can impact our resilience – particularly if we reach the point of burnout.

Aim to identify how you feel and act when you’re stressed and what helps you to de-stress, so that you can catch yourself before this happens.

Effective ways to de-stress include:

  • Exercising
  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Immersing yourself in a hobby

It is also helpful to pinpoint some specific steps you can take to manage your stress at work.

4. Take action where you can

It’s tempting to focus only on the biggest, most uncomfortable loads. It makes logical sense – to focus on the thing that brings the biggest gain if you were to fix it.

But what happens if you can’t fix it? It can start to feel even bigger and more uncomfortable. And if this carries on happening, then we become used to dealing with loads that we struggle with.

The more you experience loads that you can’t do anything about, the more your mind will start to miss the ones which you could do something about. This is known as learned helplessness.

But luckily, it’s easy to stop yourself from getting stuck in this way. Just keep taking action on whichever loads you can, even if they’re not the biggest or most disruptive.

This will keep the learned helplessness at bay. And of course, every load you reduce, even if it’s only by a little bit, frees up some more resources for dealing with the rest.

How to build resilience in others at work

As a leader, enabling your team to be more resilient should be a key priority, both from a moral and business angle.

The most resilient teams have a great chance of also being the happiest, healthiest and highest-performing teams. Build resilient teams by:

1. Provide social support

As a manager, you have a choice. You can either be a load, a resource, or maybe even both.

Undoubtedly there will be times when you must put pressure on your employees, but you should always be available to talk to if they’re struggling.

That way, you can act as an external resource, which will increase the capacity of employees to deal with their loads, helping to restore that balance which is so key to resilience.

Read this guide on how to talk about mental health at work for help with this.

2. Be proactive about work-related stress

Work-related stress is one of the most prominent barriers to resilience, so make sure you’re on the lookout for signs of it among your team members.

If you’re able to spot the signs of poor mental health early, you will be well-placed to quickly intervene.

You can make it easier to spot the sings of work-related stress by:

  • Encouraging your team to speak openly about mental health and to look out for each other
  • Regularly checking in on the mental health of your employees, preferably in a 1:1 setting
  • Sharing your own experiences of poor mental health, which may encourage others to do the same

3. Create a psychologically safe environment

Creating a psychologically safe environment will help your employees feel more comfortable dealing with setbacks.

It will also ensure that when things do go wrong, they can be dealt with in an efficient and effective manner, before they become huge problems.

Check out Champion’s guide on how to create a psychologically safe environment.

Resilience: It’s key for leaders

Building resilience helps you develop a positive approach to work and outlook on life, which in turn enables better productivity and increased motivation.

Resilience enables a proactive approach to daily life, helping us reduce the things that knock us down, as well increasing our ability to bounce back from them.

That’s why, whatever role you undertake, in whatever department, building resilience is so important.