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05 Apr 2016

5 steps to building emotional resilience in the workplace

Emotional resilience – an individual’s psychological ability to cope with, or adapt to, pressure, change and stress – has infiltrated the world of the workplace.


Promoting the emotional resilience of employees, enabling them to function more effectively in all areas of their lives, can play an important role in helping them to enhance their productivity and performance. Such efforts also complement more traditional and widely recognised strategies to manage and reduce workplace stress.

Building the requisite mental skills means equipping staff with the tools to cope with the prevailing working environment, whether this entails multiple tasks, challenging managerial relationships or high workloads.

Below are five key steps to help employers to achieve this and to support their employees’ mental wellbeing.

Step 1: Profile the health of your staff

Support and advice for staff on how best to build mental resilience can deliver significant benefits, but employers should first establish if, where and how employees need support and coping strategies.

By building a health profile of your workforce, businesses can determine the most appropriate plan of action.

This can be achieved by mining staff health and management information, such as employee assistance programmes (EAP) data, sickness absence data and mental-ill-health-related PMI claims.

In many cases, line managers will be best placed to identify where help is needed but appropriate training is important to help them recognise early signs of stress, changes in behaviour or general performance.

Step 2: Establish a supportive environment

Business in the Community and the Mental Health Foundation have recommended fostering a healthy psychological environment in their collaborative ‘Emotional resilience toolkit’. This environment can be characterised by factors such as employee reward and recognition, employment security and a management style and culture that promotes mutual trust and respect.

The meta-analysis of 27 research articles conducted by Barak et al (2009) supports this suggested approach, demonstrating that a supportive workplace environment in which employees feel empowered can help enhance employees’ stress-management capabilities.

Step 3: Identify benefit support

Support for staff can be found in employee benefits – notably in employee assistance programmes (EAP).

EAPs can offer one of the most effective methods of building emotional resilience, offering confidential advice and counselling. EAPs, which provide access to experienced counsellors and a 24/7 telephone helpline, can help staff address and tackle a range of issues, such as anxiety, stress and depression.

EAPs provide a particularly cost-effective solution, providing staff with access to experienced counsellors and a 24/7 telephone helpline. They allow employees to confidentially discuss any issues arising from, or affecting, their work whenever they need support. The helpline enables more reserved employees to communicate and discuss problems without having to engage in face-to-face conversations.

Step 4: Introduce resilience and mindfulness training

Emotional resilience capabilities will vary from individual to individual and cannot be taken for granted. Resilience, however, is a skill that can be learned.

Techniques to deal with pressure and stress can be taught through structured resilience training and mindfulness programmes.

Resilience training teaches employees to feel empowered, confident, proactive and decisive. It teaches them not to view difficulties as paralysing events, but rather as challenges. As the benefits of this become more widely recognised, more service providers are looking to offer resilience courses and workshops.

Mindfulness, involving meditation and breathing exercises, provides employees with the tools to improve their awareness of the present moment, rather than being consumed by unhelpful, stress-inducing, thought processes.

Step 5: Promote spiritual resilience

Finally, there is a school of thought that suggests spiritual resilience – an individual’s personal life values and goals – can help to support an individual’s emotional resilience. 

Building spiritual resilience, it is claimed, can have an important role to play in bolstering employees’ inner strength and general sense of wellbeing. If employees believe in their work, regarding it as meaningful and purposeful, they can have a greater ability to cope when faced with difficult or challenging circumstances.

Spiritual resilience is regarded, alongside emotional resilience, as being one of the key ingredients to mental health by the World Health Organization.

This article was provided by PMI Group, a Willis Towers Watson company. 

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