30 Ways to Build Workplace Resilience

30 Ways to Build Workplace Resilience

Originally published on www.resiliencei.com and reproduced with permission.
By 

Resilience in the workplace is a leading issue for boards, CEOs, and the People and Culture leadership.

The workplace drivers for resilience are clear:

  • People and teams in flow multiply productivity
  • Mental skills – specifically situation agility – are essential
  • Productivity requires emotional maturity and collaboration
  • People need support in wellbeing and lifestyle disciplines
  • Change and complexity require bounce and mental fitness
  • Solving digital overload and distraction are essential
  • Solutions for increasing anxiety and depression are urgent
  • Mental health is a lead safety concern

With over 20 years’ experience, our team has delivered resilience training and solutions to businesses, government, schools, competitive sports and entrepreneurs.

Here are 30 ways we have identified to build workplace resilience:

1. Start with the CEO and board.

Resilience is a strategic issue for all workplaces. There are critical risks if your people’s resilience fails and significant advantages to all aspects of human productivity when resilience is secured. When the CEO and board support and lead the initiative, employees are more confident in the approach.

2. Define resilience clearly.

Resilience is a learned ability, through practical skills, that enables our capacity to bounce in adversity, grow our master skills, connect with others and find flow in work. Having a common definition of resilience enables individuals and teams to build insight and activate the right response when required.

3. Frame resilience in the positive.

With the right skills adversity and challenge become a force for engagement, collaboration, innovation and organisational strength. Resilience is more than just bouncing back from challenges – it is a web of competencies that enable us to lead a safe, well and effective life.

4. Use resilience as a framework.

Integrate, align and simplify your people initiatives including safety, mental health, well-being, mindfulness, emotional intelligence, leadership and high performing teams. Fragmented programmes can cause confusion and apathy when teams are already feeling the pressure. Using a common framework builds consistency and reliability.

5. Socialise the idea.

Involve your people in dialogue around the concept of resilience and the benefits.

6. Create enthusiasm for action.

Invite speakers and encourage people to share stories and favourite examples of resilience in action.

7. Offer all staff a Resilience Diagnostic.

A confidential, voluntary and secure assessment is essential. Ensure that each participant receives an actionable and educational report.

8. Examine the company aggregate report.

While protecting individuals, the data can be aggregated to show where your risks and strengths lie. This will guide your solution.

9. Engage the team in an effective debrief.

It is essential that each participant has the opportunity to understand what the report means and how they can use it as a platform to drive their resilience building plan.

10. Plan targeted workshops.

From your company report define the key points of focus and engage the right team to train and support your teams.

11. Make digital training and support available.

Workshops, videos, practice tips, self-assessments and a simple research resource can be on every device.

12. Encourage people to share with family.

Resilience is always closely intertwined with resilience at home. Let your people share resources with family.

13. Invite family to a workshop.

This can be a great way to build community and make a real contribution to the families that support your people.

14. Train leaders to support resilience.

Leaders must understand the concepts, learn to walk-the-talk in their own behaviours and explicitly coach for resilience.

15. Leaders must understand how resilience fails.

Be sure to train your leaders and managers to recognise the signs of resilience failure and make sure they understand the basics of attention disorders, autism, anxiety and depression.

16. Be sure your EAP is engaged.

Let your EAP provider know what you are doing and make sure your people know that support is available.

17. Don’t rely on a workshop to solve resilience.

Resilience can only grow when people are encouraged to practice the skills. Have regular training and learning labs.

18. Integrate resilience into team behaviours.

Expect team managers to understand how bounce, tactical calm, personal mastery, empathy, focus and flow support a team’s work.

19. Create and maintain rhythm.

People are not computers. We work best in short bursts of intense activity with brief effective breaks. Make sure the office supports regular breaks and disciplined bursts of activity.

20. Provide goal setting and tracking.

Modern apps and wearables allow people to set goals and track progress. This can be a powerful force for constructive change.

21. Remove junk food and sugar drinks.

Provide healthy options.

22. Organise fresh fruit bowls for each office.

Not expensive and powerfully symbolic.

23. Bring natural light into the office.

Natural light, plants, greenery and views lift productivity.

24. Encourage walk and talk meetings.

This supports rhythm, movement and and a deeper form of communication.

25. Send out weekly tips on practical actions.

Make the practice tips bright fun and visible in public places.

26. Encourage social activities around resilience.

Make it fun, social and sometimes competitive.

27. Campaign for resilience over at least three years.

Repetition and mastery matter.

28. Reward people and teams that achieve.

Look out for those who demonstrate success and celebrate their story.

29. Keep your leaders visible and active.

When your people see leaders paying attention to and working on their own practices you gain momentum.

30. Repeat the Diagnostic.

We recommend that the diagnostic can be done twice yearly. Learn what is working and keep improving your strategic resilience.

A Guide to Resilience and Wellbeing

A Guide to Resilience and Wellbeing

A Guide to Resilience and Wellbeing

For 40 years, researchers have been investigating the impact of resilience on health, wellbeing and success. More recently, resilience has gained traction in popular culture, too. Across digital and print media – mothers, employees, trauma survivors and ordinary people are encouraged to harness resilience to improve their lives. In 2015, The New York Times published an article on ‘The profound emptiness of resilience’ – which lamented the overuse and misappropriation of this term in popular culture. Whilst ‘resilience’ is sometimes defined inaccurately, frequent usage of the word suggests it’s an extremely important concept that resonates with people from all sections of society.

Part of the reason dialogue on resilience has entered the mainstream is because – as a concept – it complements contemporary definitions of wellbeing. Wellbeing, as we know it today, favours holistic models of health, many of which have existed for centuries but have garnered exposure in Western countries within the last decade or so.  We’ll explore why the concept of resilience holds so much promise in today’s ‘wellbeing-conscious’ world.

Models of Health & Resilience

Depending on who you ask, ‘health’ and ‘wellbeing’ mean various things. The Western biomedical model draws a distinction between physical and mental health. In contrast, alternative models – influenced by Eastern and Ayurvedic philosophies – see the mind and body as inextricably linked. There is compelling evidence to suggest that toolkits such as resilience can help protect the body against various physical illnesses. Given societies’ increased acceptance of the close relationship between mental and physical health, it’s no surprise that resilience has risen to the top of the agenda.

Additionally, the biomedical model assumes that “disease is the single cause of illness” and once the isolated disease has been cured, the body will return to good health. Alternative health models do not assume that disease is behind all illness. Instead, these models try to nurture a solid foundation upon which the individual can self-regulate, avert illness, and achieve an overall sense of wellbeing. Crucially, alternative health models take a holistic approach to healthcare and are concerned with creating balance and equilibrium within the body. When considering this notion of balance, it seems almost identical to the notion of resilience. Resilience is often defined as “the ability to bounce-back from negative events.” In other words, resilience depends on the ability to return to a state of equilibrium after a period of adversity. Perhaps resilience discourse has grown rapidly in recent years because it appeals to our desire to achieve balance and equilibrium in the face of stressful work environments, busy schedules, and unstable economies.

 

BY BRADLEY HOOK

Safetyism, Snowballs and Fragile Youth

Safetyism, Snowballs and Fragile Youth

Originally published on www.resiliencei.com and reproduced with permission.

By 

Book Review: Coddling of the American Mind, Lukianoff and Haidt, 2018

We parent, teach and support. We want the best for young people. What we are seeing is a collapse of mental well-being. At the same time, events of intimidation, violence and witch hunts increase.

Lukianoff and Haidt take us on an evidence-based and carefully considered journey through modern parenting, teenage mental illness and education. They describe how we are losing the pursuit of truth and growth. Society is being pulled apart by partisan politics and intolerance. Young people are not coping well with this.

Most importantly, the authors detail what we can do to improve this situation. What they describe is American but the signs are global. The solutions are practical and immediately applicable in families, schools, universities and societies.

The book is excellent.  Three ideas:

Safetyism

Overprotective society, parenting and education is depriving young people of growth. They are missing the opportunity to engage skilfully with truth, diversity, risk assessment, empathy and situation agility (the authors use Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)). The i-Generation, born after 1995, suffers rapidly increasing rates of anxiety, self-harm and depression. They are poorly prepared for the challenges of work, relationships and politics.

The authors recommend using safety for physical risk only. They encourage us to help our youth take risks through free play, debate, conflict resolution and respect for truth. Social media must be limited – particularly for young women.

Snowballs

A school demands that student never touch snow because it may produce a dangerous snowball. Similarly, we have invited and expanded the concept of threat to include diverse views, free speech, “micro-aggressions” and “avoiding triggers”. Thus universities have, since 2013, experienced an alarming increase in mental illness and campus violence. Research from left-leaning perspectives is all that remains. Moderate views have been silenced. Social media helps us name and shame those who voice disquieting views. If that does not work, students increasingly resort to violence. All because someone touched the snow.

Fragility

Young people are complex adaptive systems. Genes create a rough template upon which the challenges of life – most specifically play and direct social interaction – work. We must play and practice to develop our neural wiring and the skills required to thrive. Jean Twenge shows that teen development is now delayed by three years. They are physically safe but mentally vulnerable.

The authors recommend that we rethink and look for proven wisdom. Treat our youth as antifragile. They have specific suggestions for parents, junior and senior school and universities. Much is based on teaching young people to own and master their emotional and cognitive responses. “Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child.”

Bravo!

Train up body, heart and mind

Train up body, heart and mind

Originally published on www.resiliencei.com and reproduced with permission.
By 

With attention disorders, anxiety and depression swallowing up ever more of our lives, should we wail, gnash our teeth and take our medicines? Or, could we use wellbeing – body, emotion and mind?

We have massive, profitable industries to address our suffering. Starting with dubious diagnoses, mental health businesses, psychiatry and pharmaceuticals profit handsomely from our suffering.

 

Three common stories

Jack is a boisterous boy great on the sport field but a distracted and distracting event in the classroom. The teacher complained and he ends up on Ritalin. His classroom behaviour improved and the family found things more peaceful. Ten years later Jack is still on Ritalin but saves them up for tests. He is so “jacked up” by the evening, he uses alcohol to calm down. Jack joins 9.6 million Americans on ADHD medication.

The global sale of ADHD medication is estimated to reach USD24 billion by 2024.

Peter is shy and challenged by social events. His parents protected him by staying close. Peter learned that he needed protection from a scary world. Teachers, coaches and friends realise that Peter is fragile so no one tells him the truth. Instead he worries. He is diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder and takes Xanax (anxiolytic) joining 32 million Americans on anti-anxiety medicine.

Jane had an adverse event as a teenager. She never quite recovered becoming withdrawn, pessimistic, tearful and self-critical. Six weeks later she was given a diagnosis of depression and started on antidepressants. At 30 she is still trying different antidepressants and is jobless. She finds alcohol can help her have a decent evening out. Jane joins 43.6 million Americans on antidepressants.

Global sales of anxiety and depression medication are expected to hit USD18.3 billion by 2025.

We will simply ignore prescription opioids for now.

Perhaps these medicines have made us more focused, calmer and happier. Could we do better? We have the knowledge to see our suffering for what it is. Well tested practices can help us return to the resilience that evolution has neatly packaged as a core human attribute. Maybe it is time to clarify and accelerate our learned resilience.

 

Wellbeing and Resilience

We seek physical, emotional and cognitive wellbeing. Our bodies, our feelings and our thoughts can be helpful or damaging. In wellbeing, our bodies are energised and engaged in the flow of life. We sleep well, stay active and eat wisely. Our feelings are positive – content, grateful, loving, calm and joyous – more than angry, sad or fearful. Positive psychology suggests at least three positive emotions to counter each negative. Our mind is calm, curious and fully present to the moment: “Wow, amazing!”

In contrast, Jack is wired, restless and hyperkinetic. He catapults from boredom to intense craving and impulse. His mind jumps randomly between distractions. He lives in the future: “what is next?” He may overindulge in sugars, sleep little, and demonstrates little empathy.

Peter is hyper-alert, heart racing, pale, eyes wide, and lips drawn wide. He feels fear. Waves of anxiety accelerate his heart, trigger his asthma and lead to exhaustion. He worries: “What if they don’t like me, what if the bus is late, what if…?”. He lives in loops of worries about future risks. He sleeps little, eats little, and avoids activity because of the risks.

Jane slumps forward, shoulders round and head bowed with sadness etched deeply in her eyes, eyebrows and lips. She feels tired, sad, tearful and hopeless. Her mind ruminates: “I am useless, I always mess up, I am such a loser, everything is going wrong…” Her screen is her best friend, she eats for comfort, lies awake in the early hours, and sleeps until lunch on the weekend. Exercise is pointless.

There is a pattern and a story in the body, in the emotions, and in the mind. Those patterns lead to behaviours and outcomes. We can deny our body, emotions and mind. We can even blame a disease (or a person or a system) for all the problems. We can ask others to take care of them. We can abdicate responsibility and ask for a pill.

 

Master body, emotion and mind

Yet we can own our body, emotions and mind. We can learn to notice them and even relax into accepting them. When we observe and accept, we are no longer our body, our feeling or our thoughts. They become objects. Objects can be studied. We can experiment. We can seek and practise new ways relate to our body, emotion and mind.

For example, both Jack and Peter could practise slow, diaphragmatic breathing while learning to hold their attention in the present. Jane could sit upright and lift her chin with her shoulders rolled slightly back. All would benefit from sleep – and exercise – and a Mediterranean diet. A recent meta-analysis suggests it can reduce depression by 33%.

The body has many levers to lift ourselves out of suffering. Simple actions. Well proven. More wellbeing. Here’s how:

Jack could work on feelings of contentment and direct his attention toward how others are feeling (empathy). Peter really needs to appreciate the moment (gratitude) and remember that most people experience some anxiety. Jane needs to seek joy and appreciation. She must make every effort to smile generously.

Our emotions are simply tools that we can learn to apply more skilfully. Simple action. Great fun to practise with others.

Jack’s attention circuits were slow to develop. He needed help from early on to train attention. He can learn to work in focused bursts with adequate rest and activity between. Peter can learn to accept watch his worries. He will notice how often they are exaggerated and unlikely. He can learn to catch worry and gently direct his attention to the present.

Jane needs coaching to help her notice the loops of self-deprecation. She can learn how to catch “I always fail” and adjust it to “I sometimes fail” and then to “We all make mistakes sometimes”. This cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is well proven to resolve depression as well and more permanently than medication.

Again, we see that thoughts can be observed, described and adjusted to be more realistic and positive. The mind is trainable – awareness, attention, bounce and positivity.

Remember that studies have shown that simply sitting slumped in front of a screen can trigger depression. Sitting upright lifts testosterone and reduces cortisol. Think of all the tiny nudges we could offer young people at home, in school and in sport. Little reminders to stand tall, to breathe out, to appreciate a gesture, to be fully focused in the moment.

What if we could be more objective about the wonderful resourcefulness in our bodies, our emotions and our minds? What if we could be more skilful and accountable in owning and mastering them? This is true wellbeing.

Bad stuff happens sometimes. I’ve got it covered. We’ve got it covered. We have toughened up.

What are we waiting for?

A Good Life: Science and Practice

A Good Life: Science and Practice

Originally published on www.resiliencei.com and reproduced with permission.

By 

How people bounce, grow, connect and flow

Our life is a blaze of consciousness in an eternity of emptiness. Behind us is 13.8 billion years of an expanding universe. Ahead may be 2.8 (or more) billion years. Human life is a fraction of a billionth of time. So short and so precious. So meaningless and yet so real.

The transcendentals since the time of Plato have been Truth (science or logic), Beauty (arts or aesthetics) and Goodness (religion or ethics).

In 2018 we are poised on an unsettling edge. On one hand, there has never been a better time to be alive. We are healthier, living longer, richer, educated, and enjoying life in a way unimaginable to previous generations (see Enlightenment Now, Stephen Pinker, 2018). On the other, population pressure is consuming and cooking the planet. Social withdrawal, anxiety and depression continue to push one in four into mindless suffering.

In a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world that keeps accelerating, we feel like we are clinging on. Some have given up, let go and feel disenfranchised (see Yuval Noah Harari TedTalk). Harari says belief in the global economy multiplied by liberal democracy has collapsed. Today, more people die from eating too much than from starvation. More people kill themselves than are killed by wars, crime and terrorism combined. The current prescriptions are not working.

 

We need a new story.

The Resilience Institute is delighted to release our 2018 Global Resilience Report. Our purpose is to help people bounce, grow, connect and flow. We aim to reduce suffering and enhance the physical, emotional and cognitive experience of life.

In this report, we explore measures of resilience in 21,239 people and see what changes after an intervention. We posed six questions based on 3,963 people who completed an assessment before and after resilience training interventions:

1. Can we bounce from distress and reduce suffering?

Depressed symptoms reduce by an average of 30% (29-86%)
Distress symptoms reduce by an average of 32% (28-82%)
Key improvements in insomnia, self-doubt, self-critical, stress symptoms and hostility

2. Can we learn to be calm, present and alert?

Stress mastery improves by 33.3% (27-70%) lead by relaxation and presence

3. Can we improve our physical wellbeing?

Physical wellbeing scores improve by 46.9% lead by improvements in health awareness, fitness, sleep quality and nutrition

4. Can we develop emotional skills and empathy?

Emotional intelligence scores improve by 25.3% lead by assertiveness, empathy, and emotional insight

5. Can we train our minds and make better decisions?

Cognitive scores improve by 35% lead by optimism, decisiveness, agility, and focus

6. Can we find fulfilment, connection and flow in work?

Noble aspirations such as compassion, purpose, fulfilment and flow increase this category score by 29.6%

Download the 2018 Global Resilience Report.

We will leave you to take your time exploring the full report and the data. In short, small and practical steps in the right direction secure a massive impact. On average the resilience ratio of participants before and after an intervention improved by 38% on our growth ratio.

We are hugely proud of our clients, their leaders and our teams. We have made a difference to human life. Suffering has been alleviated. People are growing at physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual levels.

Further, when people are resilient they take better care of others and make wiser decisions in life, business and nature.

Using an evidence-based approach (The True), an integral model (The Good) and an aspiring vision for the possibility of being human (The Beautiful), we are making a small steps toward a good life.

 

A good life is inspired by love and guided by knowledge. Bertrand Russell

A Guide to Resilience and Wellbeing

A Guide to Resilience and Wellbeing

Originally published on www.resiliencei.com and reproduced with permission.
By 

For 40 years, researchers have been investigating the impact of resilience on health, wellbeing and success. More recently, resilience has gained traction in popular culture, too. Across digital and print media – mothers, employees, trauma survivors and ordinary people are encouraged to harness resilience to improve their lives. In 2015, The New York Times published an article on ‘The profound emptiness of resilience’ – which lamented the overuse and misappropriation of this term in popular culture. Whilst ‘resilience’ is sometimes defined inaccurately, frequent usage of the word suggests it’s an extremely important concept that resonates with people from all sections of society.

Part of the reason dialogue on resilience has entered the mainstream is because – as a concept – it complements contemporary definitions of wellbeing. Wellbeing, as we know it today, favours holistic models of health, many of which have existed for centuries but have garnered exposure in Western countries within the last decade or so.  We’ll explore why the concept of resilience holds so much promise in today’s ‘wellbeing-conscious’ world.

 

Models of Health & Resilience

Depending on who you ask, ‘health’ and ‘wellbeing’ mean various things. The Western biomedical model draws a distinction between physical and mental health. In contrast, alternative models – influenced by Eastern and Ayurvedic philosophies – see the mind and body as inextricably linked. There is compelling evidence to suggest that toolkits such as resilience can help protect the body against various physical illnesses. Given societies’ increased acceptance of the close relationship between mental and physical health, it’s no surprise that resilience has risen to the top of the agenda.

Additionally, the biomedical model assumes that “disease is the single cause of illness” and once the isolated disease has been cured, the body will return to good health. Alternative health models do not assume that disease is behind all illness. Instead, these models try to nurture a solid foundation upon which the individual can self-regulate, avert illness, and achieve an overall sense of wellbeing. Crucially, alternative health models take a holistic approach to healthcare and are concerned with creating balance and equilibrium within the body. When considering this notion of balance, it seems almost identical to the notion of resilience. Resilience is often defined as “the ability to bounce-back from negative events.” In other words, resilience depends on the ability to return to a state of equilibrium after a period of adversity. Perhaps resilience discourse has grown rapidly in recent years because it appeals to our desire to achieve balance and equilibrium in the face of stressful work environments, busy schedules, and unstable economies.

How Can We Develop Resilience?

Norman Garmezy, an early resilience researcher, noticed that some children in his studies appeared to ‘bounce-back’ from trauma or neglect more effectively than others. These children had calm and balanced temperaments but displayed strong social intelligence. Later, developmental psychologists theorised that children were more likely to be resilient if they had formed a strong, trusting attachment with a loving caregiver.

However, all is not lost if resilience is not formed in childhood – it’s a skill that can be nurtured in adulthood too. Negative thoughts such as ‘the world’s out to get me’ can create a victim-mentality which prevents individuals from obtaining or maintaining resilience. According to many psychologists, the degree to which individuals feel in control of their lives (i.e. their locus of control) will determine how resilient they are. Crucially, perceptions are malleable, so if someone feels victimised and powerless in their life – training can enhance their ability to feel in control – thereby facilitating resilience.

Harnessing Resilience – Creating Balance

A recent study aimed at improving health in the workplace found that resilience training lowered levels of depression, reduced sickness-related absence, and increased self-esteem. Employees attended 12 weekly resilience-building sessions, which incorporated a holistic mix of interpersonal therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy and counselling. Encouragingly, this study suggests that resilience is a skill that can be taught in as little as three months!

Rather than prescribing individuals with isolated treatments to reduce workplace absences, this study suggests employers should encourage workers to build strong psychological foundations through resilience training. Resilience appears to improve workers’ overall wellbeing, nurture their ability to self-regulate and improve numerous outcomes for both the business and the individual. Interestingly, this study also found that resilience training improved employees’ perceptions of their overall work-life-balance, suggesting that resilience training helps foster the state of ‘balance’ highly valued in contemporary wellness discourse.

A similar study found employees were more likely to achieve a multitude of positive goals if they harnessed strong foundational resilience. For example, resilience could protect against poor sleep, sickness-related absence, stress, low productivity and low job satisfaction. Importantly, researchers found resilience most useful for protecting against sickness-related absences during periods of high-strain (compared to low-strain). If wellbeing is imagined as a state of balance, it’s unsurprising that individuals in higher-strain environments would require comparatively more resilience skills to enable them to return to a state of equilibrium. For example, if one side of a see-saw is weighed down with adversity, the weight of this adversity will dictate how much resilience is needed on the other side of the see-saw to maintain equilibrium. Indeed, resilience training is likely to be invaluable for sectors where employees are prone to burnout – such as nursing, management and policing.

Crucially, it’s not only workers who might benefit from resilience training. One study showed that resilient mothers were better able to juggle the competing demands of motherhood such as caring for others, timekeeping, sustaining employment and self-care. This suggests resilient mothers are better equipped at fostering the healthy, balanced lifestyle central to contemporary definitions of wellbeing. Moreover, this study found that resilient mothers were more able to promote positive health outcomes for the whole family – not just for themselves.  Harnessing resilience is not a selfish goal then! Indeed, scientists have predicted that, if whole communities were taught resilience skills, they’d be better able to work together to help each other bounce-back from natural or political disasters.

The Cornerstone of Healthcare

Resilience may well be an overused term, but it’s easy to see how this concept has gained such a following. The concept of resilience holds promise for those seeking balance and stability in a very ‘wellbeing-conscious’ era. In the same way that yoga, meditation and rest can rebalance the body after stressful events, resilience can enhance an individual’s ability to return to a state of equilibrium after an adverse experience.

Resilience is a foundational psychological tool which empowers the individual to feel capable of handling uncertainty. Resilience training is not a ‘treatment’ for a disease but rather an investment in an individual’s overall health and wellbeing. Wade and Halligan predict that, in the near future, we’ll stop using the biomedical model of illness to inform our healthcare systems.  Indeed, if we continue to incorporate more holistic definitions of wellness into our vocabulary, it is likely that resilience-awareness will become the cornerstone of future healthcare systems.