Build resilient teams that survive change and challenge

Find out how to cultivate organisational and individual resilience.

The World Health Organization describes stress as the “global health epidemic of the 21st century”. One study found that 75% of the global workforce experiences moderate to high stress levels, while another estimates that 17 million work days are lost to stress, anxiety, and depression every year.

Is something going to give? Unlikely. 

The pace and intensity of work cultures and workloads are quickening. There’s constant change, increasing competition, pressure to do more with less, deadlines and conflict. 

Add to this the consistent negative information that bombards us through the media and social media channels, and the risk of burnout is real.

So, if we assume that work and life aren’t going to get easier and that change is the only constant, how do we build better coping mechanisms?

In a word: resilience.

We need to build resilient workplaces that can survive the inevitable tough times; workplaces that are ready for change, can quickly adapt to disruptions, and can maintain operations while planning for long-term strength, agility and sustainability.

Resilient businesses need resilient people who can deal with the strains of a modern workplace and perform under pressure – people who understand that we cannot control everything, that there will be tough times, but that those won’t last. 

Better days are – always – at the end of the wave.

More good news? The skills and traits of resilience can be learned and strengthened, so that we can better manage stress, anxiety and uncertainty.

Learn resilience

Being resilient isn’t like being an eloquent speaker, a great rugby player or nurturing individuals. It isn’t intrinsic. Anyone can develop the quality of resilience simply by learning how to drive their thoughts, behaviour and actions.

Resilience means being aware of ourselves, the people around us and our environment. It means accepting that life will throw us curveballs, noting how we respond to these challenges, and making an effort to learn from them.

But resilience can’t grow in a vacuum. It needs to be built into organisational culture, with leadership playing an integral role. Employees draw on the energy of their leaders and look to them for inspiration, motivation and encouragement.

Build resilient teams

We can’t avoid challenges in life or work, but we can help our teams build habits that will help them to recover faster from the setbacks they encounter.

Here are eight tips:

1. Build a resilience strategy. Develop a better understanding of the challenges that the business faces, review its ability to address those challenges, and unite people, processes and priorities to act on them.

2. Celebrate small wins. They add up to big wins.

3. Communicate, constantly, through good times and bad. This builds commitment, trust, accountability, unity and a sense that this, too, shall pass.

4. Avoid panic. When challenges arise, encourage teams to use their strengths and skills to maintain control over the situation and to come up with new solutions.

5. Don’t dwell on failure. Acknowledge it, learn from mistakes, and move forward.

6. Develop competence and confidence. Offer training and workshops in problem-solving, stress management, mindfulness, self-awareness and self-care. Encourage teams to believe in their abilities to handle situations effectively.

7. Encourage practical compartmentalisation. By grouping similar work types together, like emails, admin and meetings, people are more likely to stay focused and achieve more.

8. Enforce leave policies. Make annual leave compulsory so that people are forced to spend time away from the office, to recharge.

A resilient self

How you view change in your personal life can build or break you. Accept the things you cannot change and focus on those you have control over. Here’s how:

Focus. When you decide to do something, focus on it entirely. Avoid distractions and do nothing else in that moment. Multitasking is a myth and switching between tasks reduces productivity by up to 40%.

Connect. with your personal values and intentions, with people who inspire and motivate you, with friends and family, and with your wider community. Social resilience and support will help you through tough times.

Ask. Lean on others for support and encouragement when you need it.

Cultivate compassion. Caring for and empathising with others increases positive emotions, creates positive work relationships and boosts cooperation and collaboration.

Exercise mindfulness. Take time every day to sit in silence and reflect. Develop confidence in your ability to solve problems and learn to trust your instincts.

Practise self-care. Exercise, drink water, indulge in a hobby or passion project.

Learn. Every challenge presents an opportunity to learn new skills.

Celebrate. By taking stock of life’s simple pleasures, you train your brain to focus on the positive rather than dwell on the negative. Develop realistic personal goals and do one small thing every day to move closer to them.

Practise optimism. Find the good in every situation and make it work for you. Reminding yourself about what’s going well will lift your mood and help you find solutions to things that aren’t going your way.

Disconnect. Step away from your desk every 90 to 120 minutes to reset your energy and attention. This will promote greater mental clarity, creativity and focus. Take your annual leave and switch off completely.

Take the next step. No matter how hard it might be. Resilience means moving forward by embracing adversity, adapting and finding the courage to continue. 

Khanyisile Moses is the Group HR Director of Sebata Holdings.

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