I’m sure everyone can recall a time when they’ve muttered “I’ve had it up to here!” in response to a situation at home, at work or in traffic, but have you ever stopped to consider what happens after “here?”
For most of us, the moment of frustration passes and we move on with our day. But for some, “here” is the beginning of a total sensory overload that can result in an anxiety or panic attack, loss of temper, emotional episode or the opposite, disengaging from the situation entirely and effectively shutting down the body’s response system.
This difference in reaction to adversity is a difference in resiliency. How resilient we are, or how well we bounce back from difficult situations, can be a deciding factor in how well we balance our work and home lives. Our resilience, most often tested in stressful situations, is like a muscle; it can be strengthened with regular exercise and proper nutrition, and it can become injured and weak with misuse and neglect.
Education acts as nutrition and will arm employees with the knowledge they need to improve their resiliency in everyday life. Although improved stress management is a key result of increasing resiliency, another is improving your management of chronic conditions like diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
Chronic conditions affect both physical and mental health, so individuals require a strong foundation of resilience to keep a sense of balance in their life. Managing pain, fatigue and limited mobility, as well as the perceived burden of medication or therapy, are par for the course when diagnosed with some chronic conditions.
But it’s not always something that comes naturally to the person faced with the condition. If not managed correctly, the employee will experience negative impacts on their health and, in turn, their overall performance at work.
Depression and anxiety related to the chronic condition, or otherwise, can have an effect on adherence to medication and dedication to therapy, both of which result in a deteriorating physical condition and declining mental health.
Adjustment disorders are more common in those with a lower level of resilience and, although they are typically short term, they can have a profound impact on an individual. If the measured symptoms do not improve with a change of environment (usually at work), depression is likely to be the long-term diagnosis; if symptoms improve with a change of environment, it is more likely that burnout is actually the issue.
Employers can (and should) address burnout through a review of the organization’s culture, including the perceived work-life balance and expected work load and response time.
Addressing resiliency in the workplace begins with developing your own personal resilience. You influence your team, like it or not, and you need to lead by example. Take control of your attitude and perceptions and simply accept the things in life you cannot change. Encourage your fellow employees to empower themselves and look at all situations as opportunities to learn.
You may not always feel like the resilient, positive-thinking, proactive employer you want to be, but the point is to behave as if you are and the feelings will follow.
Flexibility is a component of resiliency and should be built into any program designed to improve resilience. Whether allowing employees to choose their working hours or how reports are presented, they appreciate an employer’s flexibility and the control they are given over their circumstances. A sense of purpose also leads to satisfaction and improved resilience, so whenever possible, make it clear to your employees how their contributions affect the organization as a whole.
Resilience is an individual’s suit of armour in Canada’s current workforce. As an employer, you have the ability to provide the materials to sustain that armour – education can be a no-cost solution to an employee population that is lacking in resilience.
The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Benefits Canada.