How can HR help employees develop resilience?

3 Feb 2021 By Jamie Mackenzie

Many people are struggling at the moment, but there are ways people professionals can support their workforces, says Jamie Mackenzie

Dealing with challenging situations is something that, at some point in life, everyone will have to overcome. Whether it’s work issues, personal problems or worries about a global pandemic, it’s fair to say we’ve all had moments that have felt a bit overwhelming. But how we overcome hurdles can have a huge impact on our mental wellbeing and our working lives, particularly as a staggering 70 million workdays are lost every year to poor mental health.

Employee resilience, defined as the ability to overcome challenges and bounce back from difficulty, is fast climbing up employers’ wishlists, and is listed as a top trait for businesses looking for potential candidates. This is unsurprising given resilience among staff can lead to increased ROI through higher job satisfaction, engagement and performance, and those employees are also nearly twice as likely to feel motivated and productive.

As we all get to grips with the new normal, this will be more important than ever before, and HR departments will play a crucial role in implementing structures to help employees develop resilience. 

Building resilience 

Resilience training is a great place to start, as it provides employees with an understanding of both the signs of stress and their personal stress triggers. These might include a heavy workload, conflicts at work, job insecurity or health concerns. 

Many of us can be guilty of bottling up how we’re feeling and trudging on, so HR leaders need to hammer home the importance of communication. As the saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved. Managers should therefore operate an open-door policy and make sure that employees know help and support is always available. Organisations that create happy and resilient employees have clear lines of communication, so that employees feel supported by their peers and managers.

If conflict is the problem, it’s also important for employees to know what protocols are in place to allow them to escalate issues if necessary. Being able to take control of a situation can be empowering and build resilience.

Prioritise wellbeing 

Mental wellbeing has risen up the agenda in recent years and with so many people working remotely right now, it needs to remain a priority for employers. Resilience and mental health have been shown to be closely linked, so leaders should check in with their teams regularly to see how they’re feeling and what more can be done to support them while working from home, particularly since the lines between work and home life have become blurred. 

If workload is a stress trigger for employees, management can help by teaching staff how to manage to-do lists and prioritise. A weekly or daily work plan with agreed targets can be a great way to help people stay focused and give them the option to push back if they’re struggling. 

Similarly, talking to employees about what they want to achieve and putting in place goals or a learning and development plan will give them focus and a stronger sense of purpose. HR can take an active role by encouraging healthy habits and highlighting the benefits of taking regular breaks, using annual leave and not emailing each other outside of working hours. 

There are an abundance of wellness resources available, including online exercise classes and healthy cooking and mindfulness apps, alongside resources such as employee assistance programmes, which can help. 

It's OK not to be OK 

With all the best will in the world, there will still be employees who struggle at times – and that’s ok. Businesses need to let their employees know that it’s normal to have ‘off days’ and to take time off to focus on their mental health. 

After all, if workers feel supported and cared about, they will feel happier, more motivated and naturally more resilient to deal with periods of stress much better.  While this is clearly good news for employees, the business will prosper too, making it a win-win situation for all concerned.

Jamie Mackenzie is marketing director at Sodexo Engage

Head of HR

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