7 Ways to Build Resilience to Stress
7 Ways to Build Resilience to Stress

7 Ways to Build Resilience to Stress

Emotional Intelligence, Company Culture, Employee Well-being   — 4 MIN


Stress at work is inevitable. A report from The American Institute of Stress shows that 41% of employees say their workload causes stress, 32% say people issues at work cause stress and 18% say juggling work and personal life is stressful. While managing multiple tasks, dealing with co-workers, and work-life balance will always be part of having a job, how employees react to these challenges leads them toward failure or success.  By helping management and employees be more resilient to stress that comes their way, companies can help them bounce back from adversity. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Focus on the positive to build resilience to stress

Optimism and a positive attitude are key components of resilient teams. A survey conducted by Harvard Business Review revealed that optimists were 40% more likely to get promoted over the next year, six times more likely to be highly engaged at work, and five times less likely to burn out than pessimists. Because positivity is contagious, it’s a promising way to help people in your organization build resilience to stress. Try to instill positivity by:

  • Coaching employees on constructive self-talk. When someone says “I don’t know how to do that,” have them rephrase it to “I don’t know how to do that yet, but I’m learning.” Such rephrasing will take some of the strain and anxiety out of asking for help when they are unclear about a task.
  • Starting meetings with something positive, whether it’s something in your personal life or a success at work. Encourage employees to go around the table and do the same.
  • Cultivating a positive work environment. This can be done by starting every morning with group stretches to elicit positive energy, brightening the workspace with happy colors, or playing energizing music during the afternoon lull.

Make empathy a must for team resilience

Employees need to recognize that everyone falls once in a while—and even more importantly to see that it’s possible to get back up. Leaders should be open and honest when they are feeling stressed, not only so employees see that everyone experiences stress, but also to help them understand that reactions to stress are just that: Reactions (and not personal attacks). 

Managers should also avoid bringing the hammer down if a team member isn’t performing well for a day or two. Instead, they should ask the employee if everything is okay and if there’s anything they can do to help them do their job better—or to help them cope.

The more often empathy is exercised, the more it builds employee and team resilience. Daily, leaders should:

  • Practice active listening. This requires asking good questions, not interrupting, considering what the other person is saying before speaking and paying close attention to your tone and body language. 
  • Be open-minded. No employee likes to feel judged for the way they are feeling. By showing compassion to every team member, leaders can help employees feel understood. 
  • Encourage sharing. Even the quietest team members have something to say but may hold it inside. Asking everyone to share their ideas and concerns helps to squelch the fear of retaliation and helps instill a sense of belonging.  

Foster psychological safety so they open up

Employees can have resilience to stress when they feel safe and supported. They should be encouraged to ask for help without fear of backlash so they can remain calm and devise a sound solution. 

Amy Edmondson describes three steps for building psychological safety in her book, The Fearless Organization:

  1. Make your expectations obvious by giving employees clear goals.
  2. Ensure everyone feels like their voices are heard, and that everyone knows you want them to be heard. 
  3. Develop a work environment that is both challenging and unthreatening. 

Managers can foster psychological safety by being more transparent in everyday interactions. Instead of messaging a worker to, "Come see me in my office," which can cause undue stress, the message should be clearer and less threatening: "Please come by to talk about questions I have on your report."

It’s also helpful to have regular check-ins with team members to be proactive about their stress levels. Asking them about their workload, how they are managing their stress, and how they can better handle work-life balance shows them that they are safe to discuss these things, and prevents them from getting to the point of burnout. Showing an interest in who they are versus what they do is a powerful way to ensure resilience on a personal and professional level.," 

Give positive feedback regularly

Weekly one-on-ones with employees are a great way to stay apprised of how projects are going and gauge employee emotional well-being. Do not just wait until performance review time to make these a priority; regular check-ins allow employees to receive regular feedback and give them a chance to discuss any stressful situations they’ve encountered

While constructive feedback during these sessions is important for helping them do their jobs better, positive feedback is even more crucial for helping to build employee resilience. Calling out the things that are going well, celebrating them, and encouraging more of that can boost morale and performance because they will focus less on what they did wrong and more on replicating what they did right. 

Recognize even small accomplishments

Employees who feel appreciated can better handle downfalls because they understand that they are valuable to the organization even in hard times. 

Managers should recognize small wins and celebrate small victories to help build employee resilience and instill confidence in team members. It can be something like a pat on the back to an employee who went out of their way to help a co-worker or an announcement in the newsletter congratulating someone for closing a deal. The key is ensuring efforts are truly appreciated and don’t go unnoticed. 

Recognizing the contributions of team members decreases feelings of stress and increases feelings of connection, resulting in better performance overall and a lower turnover rate.  

Demonstrate a commitment to growth

Ambiguity is a natural cause of stress. To alleviate an employee’s confusion about their role in achieving short- and long-term company goals, managers should help them to see the big picture. Whether it’s showing them reports of how their work contributed to cost-savings, or informing them of how their research will help in an upcoming acquisition, leaders create a feeling of transparency that builds resilience to stress.

Team members also deserve to know what’s next for them, or at least hear the possibilities. While most people will not be promoted every year or two, they need to feel like they are receiving steady growth and learning opportunities. Allowing them to participate in leadership development programs shows that you support internal mobility and are committed to their growth.

Provide training that instills team resilience

Resilience training empowers employees to become confident in their roles and gives leaders the tools to nurture attitudes that boost adaptability and flexibility in whatever scenario the team faces.

By providing a well-curated training library around resilient skills  such as  mindfulness, managing and adapting to change, building courage, overcoming rejection, and fostering relationships, leaders and their team members can become more adaptable to change and build resilience to stress.

HSI Blue Ocean Brain’s award-winning microlearning solution helps organizations of all sizes upskill their people, and includes training for more resilient teams. For more information, click here to schedule a consultation with one of our learning experts.