According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the present circumstances, most of the employees consider their jobs as the number one reason behind all the Stress in their lives. In fact, even the World Health Organization has described stress as the “global health epidemic” prevailing in the 21st century. Since 90% of us work in circumstances where we are needed to be constantly connected and have highly demanding work cultures, the risk of stress and burnout has increased considerably. Since it’s not likely that the pace and intensity of this contemporary work culture is going to change, it is important that we need to build resilience skills to effectively steer through work life.
It has been observed that some of the most resilient teams and individuals are not the ones that do not fail, but instead, they are the ones who have failed and learnt to thrive because of such failures. When people are challenged, it activates resilience within them as part of their skill set.
Research has pointed out that resilience is triggered and built by behaviours, attitudes, and social support which can be cultivated and adopted by anyone. Some of the factors that lead to resilience include the ability to stay balanced and managing difficult or intense emotions, optimism, a strong social support system, and a sense of safety. The bright side of it is that since there are a set of skills and behaviours associated with resilience, you can learn to be more resilient.
While you cannot build your resilience skills by remaining in a vacuum, it is crucial that you learn to manage and understand some of the factors which make you feel so overwhelmed and stressed at work. Your present work culture reflects the increasing demands and complexities faced by the business at a global level. For instance, the IBM Institute for Business Value conducted a survey of 5,247 business associates belonging to 21 industries in more than 70 countries where it was reported that the scale, scope, and speed of their businesses were increasing at a faster rate, especially when the competitive landscapes became disrupted by different business models and technology. This resulted in employees working frantically. By constantly staying connected and responsive to work round the clock proved to be extremely taxing.
A survey that was conducted across Europe, Asia, North America, Africa, and South America on over 100000 employees revealed that stress, depression, and anxiety accounted for around 90% of all emotional health cases in the Employee Assistance Programs that were conducted as part of the survey. The increasing levels of stress at the workplace are indeed a cause for concern, as negative stress has a direct connection to productivity and wellness of employees.
However, an important point of distinction is that not all stress creates a negative impact. In fact, there are some types of stress which have a positive bearing on your productivity and well being. Positive stress can, in fact, make you healthy and motivates you to give your best and help you perform much better. Once stress crosses the point of motivation, it leads you to experience the unhealthy effects of stress which eventually leads you to chronic diseases and burnout.
How to Boost Personal Resilience
So how can you stay motivated and develop resilience when faced with chronic negative stress and increasing demands, changes, and complexities? This article provides some tips which are based on behavioural and organisational research.
1. Practice Mindfulness
Successful people are turning their attention towards mental training associated with mindfulness. Social psychologists are of the opinion that mindfulness provides you with the accuracy of judgment and problem-solving ability with insight. Being mindful also enhances an individual’s cognitive flexibility. Online mindfulness programs are known to be effective and practical in decreasing employee stress levels, and it also improves their work engagement and resilience and enhances the overall well being of employees and organisational performance.
How can you or your team imbibe mindfulness into the rhythm and routine of your daily schedule at work? For mindfulness to become a core competency within an organisation, it requires a multimodal learning and skill development program with a combination of on-site training, webinars, mobile learning, and peer to peer learning network. Participants who took part in these types of learning programs displayed significant improvements in their resilience. The mindfulness tools and content delivered in these programs helped the employees to effectively manage stress, improve collaboration, and enhance their overall well being.
It is important to integrate mindfulness into the core talent processes of organisations such as the on boarding process, performance discussions, manager training, and leadership development. However, most of the organisations have not yet reached a stage of adopting mindfulness as their core talent process.
2. Segregate Your Work into Different Compartments
While a normal human being receives around 11 million bits of information per second, yet the thinking centres of our brain can effectively process only around 40 bits of information received. A practical way of comprehending this is that though we cannot decrease the inflow of information into our inboxes, we can segregate the cognitive tasks into compartments to optimise the way we process that information. You should deliberately compartmentalise various types of activities at work such as emailing, brainstorming sessions, and general business meetings. According to the latest research conducted by the American Psychological Association, it is useful to compartmentalise your work especially when you consider that switching from one type of task to another makes it difficult to tune out distractions and reduces productivity by around 40%.
Segregate your tasks in such a manner that you dedicate specific times during the day to perform specific work related activities and not take up other tasks during this period. While this approach may be little stringent for some people, but it creates an optimal set of conditions for you to be able to effectively process information and take quality decisions by decreasing your cognitive load and stress.
3. Take Small Breaks in Between to Reset Attention and Energy
In a working day, you need to pay attention to the rise and fall of your energy and productivity. Psychologists have opined that energy circles, mental focus, and clarity have a typical 90-120 minutes span. Hence it is significant that you step consciously away from work for small breaks to reset your attention and energy span. Research has indicated that when you tend to balance your work with a brief detachment time, it promotes greater mental clarity, energy, focus, and increases our capacity for resilience for the rest of our working day.
4. Stay Mentally Agile
Research has also proved that it does not take too much of an effort to switch the neural pathways which we use to process the experience of stress to be able to respond to instead of reacting to a challenging situation or person. Mental agility facilitates you to mentally de-centre yourself to manage stress effectively. When you de-centre stress, you can pause and observe the experience from a neutral standpoint and then try to resolve the issue. By staying mentally agile and de-centring stress, you activate the core skill of resilience within you. When you tend to take a step back and label your emotions, it enables the thinking centre of your brains instead of the emotional centre. Staying mentally agile is a valuable skill especially in highly demanding work situations at the workplace.
5. Cultivate Self Compassion and Compassion for Others
One of the most neglected aspects while building resilience is to cultivate both self-compassion and compassion for others. According to research, compassion leads to increased positive emotions which result in creating positive working relationships. It also leads to greater collaboration and cooperation. Compassion increases mental well being, decreases stress, and increases happiness.
A lot of individual behaviours and skills contribute towards cultivating a culture of resilience at the workplace. If you can nurture resilience as a skill, it will serve you well especially in a highly stressful work environment. Organisations also tend to benefit when they have a more resilient workforce. So you should strive to build an organisational culture that supports and encourages resilience training.
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