Resilience is a topic that comes up in many corporates and is often a training course for dealing with stress and work life balance. However an individual’s resilience can be affected by many external factors apart from work and a one size fits all approach simply doesn’t work. How people manage stress will be different depending on the person and the levels and types of stress they are facing.
In a recent global survey by IBM, work is seen as one of the biggest contributors to stress. This was attributed to the speed of change in business across the world, and in certain areas the uncertainty of the political situation. This is particularly noticeable in the UK with the uncertainty surrounding Brexit with the deadline of 29 March fast approaching. Added to this the speed of communications and the ability to be online 24/7 has resulted in business cultures expecting instant responses to emails and texts. This hardly allows for a work life balance.
Stress can have a positive effect in the short term, with adrenaline kicking-in to help us cope and work at peak performance. This is a basic human response to a situation, going back to the primitive reaction of ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ when faced by a sabre toothed tiger. However over a long period of time stress will have a negative impact, affecting sleep patterns, and mood which can result in burn out.
There are many ways in which an individual can boost their ability to cope with stress, work life balance and increase their resilience which is beneficial to both work and home life.
Managers need to make sure workloads are balanced across teams, and also set a good example themselves. It’s no good to be demanding instant or out of hours responses to emails or phone calls. If your team is always ‘on call’ they may be engaged with the company or work, however stress levels increase and work life balance takes a hit. In France a law was enacted in 2017 to give employees the right to disconnect from work out of hours.
Compartmentalising our workload, ie breaking it down into manageable chunks and focusing on one task at a time will help. It is estimated we receive 11m bits of information a second, but we can only process 40 bits of information effectively. Added to that, research shows that if we are interrupted it can take up to 23 minutes to get engaged properly with the activity again.
Taking breaks in your work is also essential, to rest your brain, stand up and walk about to give yourself a break from the screen and desk, but also give yourself a different view which can aid thought processes and give mental clarity. 90 minutes’ work is deemed to be the maximum time for effective concentration. If you’re able to take a walk around the block, this will give you fresh air, exercise and a different perspective. When you’re home, if you have to go back to the emails, limit your time and set boundaries for your colleagues so they know you are not available! With the time you’ve given yourself ensure you spend quality time with your family and friends, pursue your hobbies and get some good sleep - we all need down time to be able to recharge our batteries.
Eating nutritious foods and staying hydrated is essential for Resilience and especially for your brain to work effectively - as the biggest muscle in your body it needs sustenance. Relying on junk food and caffeine or sugar rich drinks will give you a short boost of energy but a bigger fall once the caffeine or sugar runs out.
Finally cultivate compassion – be good to yourself and others. Research has shown that this increases positive work relationships and with your family and friends, it improves cooperation and collaboration.
Good managers should be able to understand the stress levels of their teams. Keeping them up to date and informed of what is going on in the company is a great way of helping your team in managing workload. Resilience reaches far beyond the ‘resilience training’ that HR teams develop that’s often aimed at smarter working. It should be a companywide change. Company cultures take time to change, if you can start building resilience as individuals and with your immediate colleagues, you will be supporting each other.
Harvard Business Review