6 steps to helping employees build mental resilience with benefits
The fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis and international conflicts are testing many people’s mental capacity to cope.
Employees’ anxieties can negatively affect their ability to function well in the workplace, especially during periods of organisational change.
Mental resilience is essential during such demanding times.
Progressive companies are consequently striving to build a workplace culture that nurtures and protects resilience. Doing so can help foster a secure and healthy workforce that is better able to adapt and respond to the challenges of an uncertain world.
Resilience capabilities will vary from individual to individual, making a people-centric approach vital. Resilience, however, is a skill that can be learned and here we highlight ways in which companies can support their workforce.
1. Build a picture
Start with a data led approach and build a picture of employee needs through surveys, one-to-ones, analysing employee assistance programme (EAP) use, reviewing medical insurance claims trends, looking at sickness absence and occupational health referral data, and more.
Profiling the workforce enables you to identify those employee cohorts who need support and consider how this can best be delivered.
2. Foster strong colleague connections
Regularly socialising with other people is proven to promote better mental health by building feelings of security, confidence, trust and empathy and by reducing anxiety. Having a shared sense of belonging at work can be a valuable anchor in tumultuous times.
Strong colleague-manager relationships help employees confidently face and collaboratively solve their challenges, finding opportunities to work together creatively and overcome difficult situations.
Since the pandemic and the rising popularity of home or hybrid working models, employers are finding it increasingly difficult to help employees feel connected at work. In Willis Tower Watsons’ (WTW) 2022 Benefit Trends Survey, ‘lack of social interaction’ was cited by UK respondents as the main disadvantage of remote working.
Creating a culture that prioritises social interactions and inclusiveness will boost workforce resilience, engagement and positivity. This can be achieved by arranging regular in-person team meetings and social events, organising volunteering days offsite and using workplace technology not only for task-focused meetings but also for social activities, such as virtual coffee mornings.
Colleagues can also make good use of instant messaging technology to share photos and updates about their leisure time and families, pets, etc.
3. Resilience training
A culture of resilience needs to be deeply embedded. Coaching conversations and resilience training courses, led by either outside professionals or trained staff, can help.
The most resilient people have a growth mindset and have learnt to adapt to new information or processes by being cognitively flexible. They have a range of coping strategies and are able to shift between them depending on the situation.
By reassessing how they handle difficult circumstances, employees are less likely to resort to avoidance behaviour and long-established default responses. In time, this can result in them viewing problems in a more objective and balanced way, analysing what they can and cannot control, and working flexibly and positively towards a solution.
4. Leading by example
The culture that a line manager creates in their team has a significant influence on employees’ attitudes towards work and their ability to cope under pressure. Investing time and money to train line managers on how to effectively build team resilience can reap considerable rewards.
Line managers can create supportive work environments by holding regular catch-ups or one-to-ones with their team members. If line managers actively encourage mutual colleague support within the wider team and clearly signpost other resources, they will provide a strong foundation for them to manage their workload and navigate challenges.
Confidence encourages resilience and managers can buoy self-belief through shows of gratitude and recognition, rewarding employees for their efforts.
Senior leadership and HR professionals must work alongside line managers to ensure the organisation as a whole takes responsibility for supporting resilience and reducing risks to mental health.
5. Treat wellbeing holistically
The most resilient people have a healthy work-life balance, good exercise habits, healthy diets and strong social networks.
It is vital to encourage employees to take regular breaks throughout the day, not to work extended hours, to take time away from their desks outside or by exercising, and to use their full paid time off (PTO) entitlement.
Embedding a company culture which empowers employees, regardless of role or seniority, to fully disconnect from work during PTO means that the time away from work can be truly restorative.
6. Promote benefits
Psychological strength can be built and improved through specialised resilience and mindfulness apps. Incorporated into an employee benefits programme, these can provide personalised support to employees conveniently via mobile phone or desktop. Mindfulness apps often have exercises and educational content developed with cognitive behavioural therapy foundations.
EAPs can also be signposted as a resource to help staff address and tackle a range of issues, such as anxiety, stress and depression. Access to 24/7 helplines enables employees communicate and discuss problems without having to engage in face-to-face conversations if they do not feel able. EAPs also tend to offer structured counselling sessions which can be used to boost confidence and coping strategies.
In partnership with WTW
WTW is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company.