The World of Work by Harry Sherrard
As technology expands and many of us have work emails accessible on our mobile phones 24/7, the division between work and home life is more blurred than ever before. Whether you are thinking about a work deadline, household chores, childcare, health problems, financial worries, finding time to socialise, helping the kids with their homework, it can be hard to ‘switch off’ and the daily pressures of life can seem relentless. The demands of modern life mean we are likely to feel stressed a lot of the time. Unaddressed, long term stress can lead on to other longer term illnesses ranging from depression to eating disorders and alcohol abuse.
Unsurprisingly, stress remains one of the lead causes of employee absence in the UK. As seemingly endless reports and research papers keep telling us, happy and well employees have better attendance rates and are more productive when they are at work. For those two key reasons there is a strong business case for employers to invest in employee wellness.
Accordingly, resilience has been a real ‘buzz word’ in the world of HR throughout 2018, as employers and employees alike become increasingly aware of the links between employee wellness and productivity. Many large employers have embraced the concept and developed impressive employee wellness programmes on a large budget already; and whilst few employers would dispute the merits of investing in this area many more are left wondering “what exactly is resilience?” and “how do I develop it in my organisation on a smaller scale, with a much smaller budget?”, so let’s look at both of those questions…
What is resilience and how can I develop it in my organisation?
Some people cope better with stress than others, the difference is ‘resilience’ or mental toughness.
At an organisational level employers can foster resilience by having the right training and policies in place. You can’t actually force your employees to be more resilient, but you can create an environment that makes it far more likely they will be; an environment that enables them to thrive and succeed in. That definitely does not mean removing all triggers of stress. Potentially stressful things like meeting deadlines or dealing with demanding customers are inherent in many jobs and an optimal amount of pressure is actually good for performance and productivity. However, it is important to be able to identify the warning signs if the pressure on employees becomes too much and to risk assess/ plan ahead for particularly busy or stressful periods to ensure you have the right resource in place. Developing an open culture where employees can ask for help or say if they are struggling is key to tackling the toll that stress can take on an organisation. This is why management training is essential.
For employees the personal goal of ‘being the best version of yourself’ neatly summarises what resilience is all about. Mental health and physical health are closely linked with one another and to develop optimal resilience employees need to think about their health holistically. However, the old adages that ‘nobody is perfect’ and that we should ‘never compare ourselves with someone else’ hold true. Resilience isn’t necessarily about going to the gym more than your colleagues or making the most sales every month; it is about investing in yourself, being your own advocate and your own competitor. Most of all it’s about problem solving – can you create a plan to do better without beating yourself up about where you are now or what happened last time? Can you self motivate and work through the inevitable ups and downs of life? Those are skills that most of us weren’t taught at school (although resilience is thankfully making its way on to the educational radar now), but resilience is a skill and it can be taught. There are tips and techniques that we can all employ in our day to day life and we can all train ourselves to think more positively.
Some ideas to promote employee wellness in your organisation:
- Training – a resilience course to give your employees some tools to develop personal resilience and for managers to better understand their role in developing organisational resilience
- Provide a water cooler, a selection of herbal teas and fruit (rather than just cakes, biscuits and a snazzy coffee machine!) in the office
- Benefits: gym memberships, bike to work schemes, employee assistance programmes
- Signposting: display literature that raises awareness of mental health, identifies local support and promote healthy activities going on the area e.g. a parkrun.
- Develop a ‘Stress At Work’ policy and treat stress as a health and safety issue, giving it the priority it warrants
- Encourage employees to take their rest breaks and if possible get away from their desks
- Promote a positive working atmosphere with zero tolerance of bullying, shouting or other aggressive behaviours.
Sherrards have designed 2 complimentary courses, one being suitable for HR and line managers, and the other being suitable for all staff. We believe this is one of our best ever initiatives, with really engaging, practical and useful content, and offered at a time when mental health in the workplace has never been higher on the agenda.
If you would like to know more about our in-house Resilience Workshops please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Victoria Bevis is a Director of Sherrards and has practised as a specialist employment law solicitor since joining the firm in 2009. Regarded by clients as being both practical and approachable, Victoria has a strong focus on reaching the best commercial outcome for our clients whilst ensuring that her understanding of their individual ethos and values are reflected in her advice.
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