Blog Managing People

8 steps to building resilience at work

Protecting your people during tough times means taking care of their wellbeing, which leads to higher engagement and better performance. Support your people and they will support you. But how do you do that? You build resilience at work into every employee's personal development.

Your people are your secret weapon to thriving in tough times. When people are happy and healthy, they’re more likely to be engaged. And engaged people perform better. So, when it comes to tough times, prevention is always better than a cure.

What is workplace resilience?

How is it some people always manage to make the most out of a bad situation? What stops them from taking something negative personally, or feeling vilified when things don’t go to plan? Resilience.

Resilience is how you handle difficult situations. Often described as the ability to bounce back and comfortably carry on during adversity. It measures how effectively you regulate your thoughts and emotions, as well as perceiving challenging situations as an opportunity, not a personal threat.

Having resilience at work has huge benefits. Your people can deal with change and are less susceptible to burnout. It drives motivation and also improves employees’ overall health. That’s because resilience and workplace wellbeing are linked.

Building resilience is very much a personal journey that takes self-reflection, time, and practice. However, team leaders and managers can support an individual’s development by providing the right tools and training.

How to build a resilient workforce

1. Understand the basic elements of resilience at work

The five pillars of resilience meld neatly with wellbeing. They are:

  1. Emotional wellbeing – how well you manage your emotions and thoughts, and how healthy and realistic your views are of yourself and the world. This is the most fundamental pillar of resilience.
  2. Inner drive – your ability to set goals and motivate yourself, as well as adopt a forward-thinking approach to progress.
  3. Future focus – your level of foresight, as well as an ability to focus on solutions and positive change. It also encompasses acceptance of failures and adversity.
  4. Relationships – having a strong social network with friends, family, and colleagues which provide emotional and physical support.
  5. Physical health – recognising the importance of looking after yourself physically, as poor physical wellbeing can directly impact the other pillars.

By recognising how many different personal elements must be tended to, you’ll be in a good starting position to develop your and others’ resilience. It’ll enable you to identify areas that you or others already perform well in and those which need working on.

2. Understand strengths and develop weaknesses

A person can only develop their resilience with self-reflection. They need to identify which areas they need to work on and develop into their strengths too.

Giving and receiving feedback helps with this. Weekly employee check-ins, frequent 1:1 sessions between managers and employees, and prompting people to complete 360 feedback are great ways to start.

When people get in the habit of identifying their strengths and weaknesses, they learn how to focus on success and opportunities for growth. They’ll feel like nothing can stop them.

3. Improve emotional wellbeing for better resilience at work

Building emotional resilience in the workplace takes time and a willingness to break out of deeply-rooted harmful habits. For example, negative automatic thoughts are a barrier to many people’s resilience.

The best way is to challenge these is head on. Write down negative thoughts when they happen and analyse their validity. You’ll learn to challenge these thoughts rather than drown in them.

4. Promote an inner drive

Being self-driven will bring you greater success and productivity at work. And prevent things becoming overwhelming. Without it, people can often feel like projects are dragging and may not put their heart into them. Your people need to feel engaged, especially during tough times.

Having clear goals boosts inner drive and, with practice, helps maintain momentum. Use goal-setting frameworks like SMART or OKRs to set realistic, relevant, and effective objectives.

5. Resilience at work needs you to be future focused

A growth mindset helps employees to future-gaze constructively. This promotes openness to change and adaptation and enables healthy responses to challenges and problems.

Critical thinking and accountability are important here. Leading by example will promote this in your team. Critical thinking requires stopping and thinking logically, rather than being swayed by emotions. It also means being human. Admit you don’t know everything and can ask questions to learn more.

6. Develop healthy relationships

Relationships take time and can’t be forced. But feeling better understood, supported, and inspired by others makes them worth the effort. Three areas to focus on are: challenging toxic relationships, building genuine connections, and finding or becoming a mentor.

If there are people who bring you and others down at work, think about what can be done. Often, people don’t realise what they’re doing and how it affects others until someone else challenges it. Honest feedback can help with this. It also helps develop resilience at work.

Building genuine connections is as simple as expressing real interest in others, including their differences, and being mindful of their views and values. Being open to how others live expands your own perceptions and expectations.

A mentor gives you a safe space outside your immediate team to express and challenge yourself.  Encourage your team to learn from those around them. This could be as simple as observing from a distance or having more formal arrangements.

7. Support physical wellbeing

A person’s physical state is closely linked to their mental and emotional one. There’s only so much you can do to support others as physical fitness is personal.

However, you can help people gain the physical and emotional rest they need by promoting a good work-life balance. Fair workloads, clear goals, and properly organised deadlines help here. When people work after a proper break, they’ll be much more switched on and feel resilience at work.

8. Provide personal and professional development

Ongoing development is key to building resilience. Team leaders need to encourage this. Personal or professional development plans (PDP) are a good tool here. Effective PDPs can prevent development from feeling overwhelming. Clear succession planning will also help here. As well as setting clear and actionable steps will make building resilience feel more tangible.