How to Build Resilience in the Workplace: The Ultimate Guide

There’s no doubt that the mental health issues, created by Covid-19, has taken a huge amount of managerial time. Increased stress combined with the transition to home working has lead to changes in team dynamics and a reduction in productivity. Working remotely has been pushed upon us all.  And where it was previously seen as the perfect solution to childcare and personal freedom, it is instead, increasing the feeling of isolation, alienation and stagnation.

This poses so many difficulties for managers. Balancing the needs of your company with the well-being of your staff. It’s no easy job, especially in the middle of a pandemic. This is why I’ve created this blog. I will outline what individuals and organisations can do to increase their resilience in the face of these issues and stresses. And the steps both individuals and organisations can make in creating a robust, strong and resilient workforce that leads to a more productive and profitable organisation.

Stress and Burnout in the workplace

Before Covid-19, mental ill-health and the increasing effect of stress in the workplace was looming larger on the worldwide agenda.  In 2019, the WHO cited that stress and burnout was now a work hazard and an occupational phenomenon defining it as a “state of vital exhaustion”

“Burnout is a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed” WHO 2019

Prior to Covid-19 stress and burnout was costing the UK workplace:

“Mental ill health in the workplace costs UK businesses £45 billion a year. With over half of this amount comes from the rising cost of leaveism and presenteeism” White Paper: How much is stress in the workplace costing? Download free copy click here

We can only speculate the effect that Covid Stress and indeed Covid Trauma will have on individuals and its repercussions to organisations in the longer term.  Whilst Covid-19 has had an initial direct effect on employee wellbeing, the ripple effect will be seen when individuals reflect on how organisations deal with the crisis – logistically and in terms of staff wellbeing.

How organisations are dealing with Covid Stress

It is well recognised that organisations have had to deal with both logistical issues with remote working and the effect of social isolation on teams as well as the impact of staff’s overall well being.

Proactive organisations have recognised that how these issues are handled now will have repercussions for decades to come.  Putting in place communications programmes and resilient training have smoothed the transitions.

The blurred line between work and home – and developing and retaining a clear and distinct work/life balance – has never been so critical to improve the lives of employees and sustain organisational productivity.

Work colleagues are missing out on the indirect benefits of being in the workplace – the shared companionship, creative fluidity and camaraderie that the office space provided has all been lost.

Research has shown that simple & proactive resilience training offers organisations an ROI return on investment five times (5:1) 

In some industry sectors as much as 11:1 ROI

Passionate organisations that have enhanced and developed the ’employee wellbeing proposition’ a stage further. Organisations that have prioritised staff wellbeing but also created a culture that is committed to the diversity, wellbeing and social values that align with the individuals’ view of the world.

Retaining and attracting key performers is crucial so that business thrive.

With the estimated cost of replacing a member of staff at £30k, it is profitability imperative to not only attract but also retain an organisation’s key players. Keeping staff so that the business knowledge remains within the organisation is essential.

Wellbeing resilience organisational programmes that actively tackle and therefore prevent employee mental health issues have a dramatic impact on organisational productivity, profitability and company brand profile. In sectors wanting to attract and retain their best staff, creating innovative and solution-based workforce, investment in their employee wellbeing is not only essential but also increases organisational profitability as well as organisational longevity in these uncertain times.

What is Resilience in the workplace?

Resilience is an active process and how we approach life, manage stress, bounce back and thrive. Whilst resilience at work is where employees work well under the stresses and strains of the workplace and are able to deal with the demands when dealing with constantly changing priorities combined with a heavy workload.

In these times of Covid-19 and with its dramatic changes and uncertainty, a robust, resilient and flexible workforce is an organisation’s greatest asset.  Ensuring that staff reach their full potential and grow through adversity. will create an engaged team focused on finding solutions.

Improved resilience means a workforce that can self manage through increased self-confidence from a base of strong wellbeing, that create stronger more cohesive and innovative teams so that organisations flourish and thrive despite unprecedented changes.

“Resilience is all about being able to overcome the unexpected. Sustainability is about survival. The goal of resilience is to thrive”

Jamais Cascio (one of the top 100 Global Thinkers 2009)

What is personal resilience in the workplace?

Dealing with the demands of work and life over the last year has been overwhelming at times. Often the ways individuals cope is by using short term release valves.   Negative coping mechanisms include the use of alcohol, drugs, overeating and other risky or aggressive behaviours are short term quick fixes to cope with stress and anxiety

Although these feel helpful in the short term they will make the problem worse in the longer term.  Relying on these short term and negative stress coping mechanisms will lead to further stress and eventually longer-term chronic stress and burnout.

Building personal self-awareness and resilience will help to reverse this.  Avoiding negative coping mechanisms will allow individuals to regain a sense of control, as well as significantly improving their self-confidence, wellbeing and health.

Using resilient skills and strategies touched upon below will allow team members to manage pressure, with the ability to grow through change and overcome challenges.


How to build resilience in the workplace

A culture of resilience starts and ends with leadership.  It is articulated from the top down. A senior management team that sticks to ‘out of hours’ agreements, takes breaks and priorities and invests in their own ‘deep rest’ away from their organisations will set the tone for the rest of the company.

An ‘always on’ culture which has been coined by the phrase ‘Leaveism’ is led from the top.

Employees are unable to disconnect from work due to increased use of technology and organisational cultural lead.  Leaveism is a major contributing factor to employee burnout.

Organisational inherent culture and ‘how things are done around here’ is more important and telling than how well organisations ‘strategise,’ describes or claims to work.

In other words culture, is less about what organisational leaders claim they want to achieve and more about who they are and how they run their teams.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Peter Drucker 


A Resilience template for the workplace

Resiliency is the longer-term and more enduring positive approach to reducing stress and avoiding burnout.  Cultivated from the top leadership team and funnelling down through to middle managers and teams.

Organisational resilience isn’t something companies can dip in and out of, it needs to be cultivated and developed. And works along a resilience continuum which I have outlined below in the 6 core resilience platforms which I have developed working with organisations.

organisational resilience

The 6 Core Levels of Organisational Resilience ™️

The 6 Core Levels of Organisational Resilience ™️ updated and refined as a continuum of  six organisational resilience levels:

Level 1: Company culture Check

  • Check the culture and climate of the organisation
  • The initial ‘check’ platform begins with an organisational audit.  To ascertain whether the organisation has a strong base with a powerful wellbeing vision and culture through leadership buy-in.  A secure base including a strong vision including purpose, goals and actions that align to those goals including positive values. This initial check platform begins with awareness based on observation and team feedback through an auditing process that will uncover gaps that need to be addressed.

Level 2: Create awareness around Choice for managers

  • Managers have a choice on how to react
  • Based on education and awareness of mental resiliency techniques
  • Mental agility is the awareness that there are effective strategies that will grow and empower teams.
  • Awareness training around managers having the ability to choose effective strategies that will grow and empower teams.  Individuals who feel secure in their management roles comforted that they have leadership buy-in will manage themselves and those around them effectively and self sufficiently.

Level 3: Managers develop a Conscious Commitment to incorporate resiliency techniques 

  • Managers have an objective response, not an emotional one
  • Based on developing and using mental agility
  • Leadership and management teams create the space throughout the day to commit to the culture and climate that drives the organisation forward.
  • Leader education and growth around a conscious commitment to changing the culture so that employees are empowered to make a difference.
  • Behaviour change and education: leadership and management teams create the space throughout the day to commit to the culture and climate that drives the organisation forward.  Resolution and emotional readiness are created using resilient performance habits. These habits create the ability to create composure and the ability to remain calm, and in control using strong reasoning skills and mental agility. 
  • Developing the skills and the abilities to solve problems using resourcefulness and anticipate and plan for contingencies without reacting to stress.  A stressful reaction is instinctive and emotionally-driven.  Whereas mental agility is an objective approach, to respond to stress calmly and taking a step back and controlling the emotional response.
  • The ability to control a stressful emotional response is an indicator of emotional intelligence – particularly evident in Japanese business/life models.

Level 4: Combine and Integrate wellbeing response company-wide

  • All employees combine and integrate work/life balance
  • Based on the concept: HEALTH AND WELLBEING
  • An integrated wellbeing strategy & tools to create wellbeing integration on an individual level using Health techniques such as – nutrition, sleep, exercise and hobbies
  • (personal talents and interests) integrated wellbeing strategy & tools to create wellbeing integration on an individual level using Health techniques such as – nutrition, sleep, exercise, hobbies, deep play, interests and talents outside of work which is deeply absorbing so that individuals are actively diverted from work and creates a more creative workforce.

Prefer Video? Watch Resilience Training in the Workplace

Level 5: Consistency

  • Managers have embedded the wellbeing tools – now creating consistency around wellbeing
  • Based on the concept: STAMINA
  • Tenacity using developed skills of persistence, bounce back and realistic optimism
  • (reference: The Stockdale Paradox  Jim Collins’s book Good to Great. naval officer and Vietnam prisoner of war) the need to balance realism with over-optimism.

Level 6: Consolidate and Community

  • Managers move towards extrinsic rewards from the community 
  • Based on the concept: COLLABORATION
  • Developing deep and sustainable social competencies built through supportive networks
  • social competencies) through supportive networks, social content and friendship groups with the development of deeper social connections and maturing the individual and teams ability to get on with others, social competencies

Resilience activities for the workplace

Whilst the 6 resilience levels outlined above take time and committed strategy, below are some simple tools for creating a quick fix to the stressful environment.

Whilst I have been working with organisations during the Covid crisis a number of initiatives have emerged, for instance:

    • Gift of Time activity: take one hour out of everyone’s week  – great for team morale.
    • 45mins zoom meetings – cut the meetings short by 15mins
    • Lunchtime walk and out of hours
    • Ensure leaders automated email response – out of hours after 5 pm
    • Using an email signature containing a phrase like: ‘I’m working out of usual hours because it suits me, but I don’t expect you to respond until your usual working hours.
    • Social zoom parties – gin parties, bread making, quizzes
    • Gratitude activity: first 5 minutes of each team meeting with a round of sharing what or who you’re grateful for.
    • Big 3 tasks: the night before write down: the big 3 that need to be achieved in order for tomorrow to be a successful day.
    • Reflection: At the end of the day, assess your day and your productivity against the Big 3.
    • Virtual connection activities: ask team members to introduce each other after a 3min pre-chat to build deeper connections and support networks in the virtual world and increase resilience.
    • Meditation & Mindfulness apps create a more harmonious workflow in teams, the results are felt for hours afterwards, ability to re-code subconscious if done consistently.
    • Journaling – get perspective on an event and issue with fellow work colleagues
    • Self-care: sleep, nutrition, exercise
    • Optimism and positivity training
    • Practice optimism ensures problems are turned into challenges
    • Inner critics is simply the ‘ego’ taking over.  Instead, be aware of personal triggers and when you see the bad, create a solution and make your thinking work for your benefit.


How to be resilient to workplace stress

Resilience to workplace stress takes a committed, longer-term approach, eventually, these approaches will become natural and commonplace.  At stage 3 of the Resilience training, managers develop strong emotional agility.    Taking the time to know their stress triggers and developing the knowledge and practice to provide a resilient and powerful response

Resilience creates and develops skills based on:

    • Seeking to understand how to move on from setbacks.
    • Compassionate to yourself and learn to step into others’ shoes is a resilience skill that can be developed.
    • Ask and give effective feedback to create a positive feedback loop that helps progress along the resiliency continuum.
    • Finally developing resilience as an organisation develops a strong support network. This will ensure that managers gain perspectives and emotional support when work-life gets difficult.
    • Work-life balance is a myth, learning to let go and be aware of the flow and integration that work and your life are part of it.

Examples of resilience in the workplace

The workplace requires adaptability and change at momentus speed; organisations that can adapt and flex quickly require a leadership team that is in alignment with their missions and can bring onboard their senior managers, teams and react quickly. Resilience is the ability to not only recover from challenging experiences but also facilitate business and individual growth and development.

Resilience is the ability of any leader in adapting, switching and evolving through adverse conditions. 

Examples of workplace resilience demonstrated by leaders include:

  • critical decision-making skills,
  • adaptability,
  • creating team strength,
  • developing a resilient organisational structure,
  • versatile strategic planning
  • ultimately resulting in a long-lasting business sustainability

These resilence skills are developed and reinforced over time using a top-down Resilience Strategy and developed throughout the organisation with Employee Resilience Training.

Employee resilience training – what is it, and how does it work?

Resilience training is a longer-term solution to reducing stress and improving wellbeing. It works along a continuum where each platform builds along to another. Resilience training gives managers the emotional readiness and strategies that their work demands.  Resilience is bespoke and individual to each separate organisational culture and requires an individual approach that increases resilience and creates strategies for reducing stress in the workplace. 

Resilience increased awareness around managers own stress, triggers and behaviours so that they can stop, choose and decide how to interact with their team.  This approach will lead to a consistent, appropriate response across an organisation so that conversations become fluid, standardised and easier so managers are on board and have the same level and type of conversation, which creates consistent and open communication.

Strategies that are monitored through quarterly reviews to ensure improved profitability, production output, and retain the best staff, for an evolving industry and its future.

The training workshops developed below are based on The 6 core resilience platforms– the 6Cs of workplace resilience and are designed to help organisations optimise healthy high performing habits and styles thereby dramatically improving the quality of management effectiveness, motivation, relationship skills and resilience.

Level 1: Company culture Check audit: Assessment of organisational cultural values and mission

  • How effective are current wellbeing and resilience practices

Level 2  Creating awareness Workshop titles:

  • Positivity as a growth mindset
  • Stress Management Training: Mental Health Agility through Covid Changes
  • Mental wellbeing: Neuroplasticity – How to capitalise on the brains’ ability to learn, grow and change through uncertainty
  • Happiness is predictable it is a choice

Level 3. Managers develop a Conscious Commitment to incorporate resiliency techniques

Behavioural change workshop titles:

  • Awareness of stress triggers at work and at home and how to change your response
  • Better behavioural skills for mental wellbeing
  • Time and energy management for high performance
  • Resilient mindset and agility
  • Stress management training: Mental health agility through Covid Changes
  • Mental wellbeing using neuroplasticity: how to capitalise on the brain’s ability to learn, grow and change through uncertainty.

Level 4. Combine and Integrate wellbeing response company-wide

Resilient wellbeing habit workshop titles:

  • How to create a resilient well-being habit
  • How to meditate when you don’t meditate!
  • Mindfulness: take a break take a breathe
  • 6 ways to improve your sleep hygiene
  • Movement to improve stiffness, tightness and avoid injury based on biomechanics and postural awareness

Level 5. Consistency and stamina 

Consistent wellbeing workshop titles:

  • How to avoid dementors and improve your mental resilience in the longer term
  • Why is happiness important at work?
  • Work/life balance concept is obsolete – how to create a healthy work-life integration 

Level 6. Collaboration

Tools created around:

  • Better zoom collaboration and commitment to ‘out of hours’ notifications
  • Networking
  • Work social events – beer, gin tasting, baking, competitive challenges, marathons 
  • Work challenges based on wellbeing tools like the number of steps walked during the day, water challenge, sleep challenges, etc

What’s next

Next steps

The best way forward is to book a call with me, Adele Stickland and together we can discover what stage your organisation is currently at, and how you can best implement the most proactive strategy that will serve your employees.

If you or your organisation would like assistance in creating or developing an existing wellbeing programme to frame conversations and support managers and employees then:

White Paper: How much is mental ill-health in the workplace costing?

Download my latest White Paper: How much is stress in the Workplace costing The paper discusses the impact of Covid-19 along with the mental health issues that organisations can foresee which will take a huge amount of managerial time, leading to lost productivity and stress, as well as increased absenteeism.

Download a copy here 

Books on Resilience in the Workplace

Wellbeing at Work: How to Design, Implement and Evaluate an Effective Strategy by Ian Hesketh available on Amazon
Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change and Thrive in Work and Life by Susan David
Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace: A Practical Guide for Employers and Employees by Gill Hasson
Stress working from home

Book a call with me, Adele Stickland and together we can discover what stage your organisation is currently at, and how you can best implement the most proactive strategy that will serve your employees.

Picture of Adele Stickland

Adele Stickland

Business Psychologist & ICF Accredited Coach | Expert in Team Dynamics & Communication Working with organisations to improve team dynamics and psychological safety by creating collaborative & productive teams. An MSc in organisational psychology and awards in education and training enable me to combine evidence-based approaches & tools to support individuals and groups in professional & personal development #Highperformanceteams #Millennialworkforce #Leadershipdevelopment #Employeeretentionstrategies #Millennialjobhopping #Managingmillennials #Teamengagement #Workforcemobility #Professionalgrowthandmentoring #Organisationalculturemillennials

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