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What does it mean to Increase Resilience and Coping?

The Increase Resilience and Coping building block assists employees in improving their ability to cope with, adapt to, and recover from stress at work.

Key strategies

There are two key strategies that organisations can use to increase employee resilience and coping. These are:

  • individual resilience; and
  • support recovery from stress.

Sometimes it is not possible to reduce high demands or increase resources enough to entirely buffer against stress. Increasing resilience and coping skills supports employees to develop skills and techniques to deal with the unexpected ups and down in the workplace and in life.

Why is it important to Increase Resilience and Coping?

Even with risk factors controlled through good work design (by reducing demands and increasing resources and supports), unavoidable stressful events can still occur. For example, unanticipated organisational change, fluctuations in markets, or traumatic events. In the event of unpredicted stressful events, employees need to have psychological resources to effectively cope and recover.

Employees with higher resilience tend to be more adaptive to failure, setbacks and change.1 Research has linked resilience to improved mental health outcomes and has found that resilience-building programs in the workplace can help with improving employee performance, enhancing well-being and preventing mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression.2

Whereas promoting individual resilience focuses on providing skills to deal with future stressful events, activities that promote stress management and stress recovery have a more immediate focus and is critical in preventing long term harm. Stress management interventions that use a cognitive-behavioural approach have been found to be the most effective in terms of stress, anxiety and other mental health outcomes.3

Interestingly, the way an individual spends their time outside of work plays a critical role in their ability to recover from work demands. Research strongly suggests that the most effective recovery strategies are psychological detachment and mastery experiences.4 Employees who are able to completely switch off and disconnect at the end of the work day (psychologically detach) experience fewer mental ill-health symptoms, emotional exhaustion and job strain over time.5-6 Mastery experiences are activities that are completely unrelated to work and are challenging but not over taxing, such as learning a new language, playing a sport. Employees who engage in mastery experiences outside of work have increased engagement work and increased well-being7

Resource

If you’re in a leadership role, you have a duty to assist with the well-being of your team. Our resources page contains information for leaders to help their teams manage stress effectively.

Resource

For guidance on how to select a resilience and coping intervention, review our Selecting Resilience and Coping Interventions information sheet.

Fact

A study found that individuals who did not have the opportunity to psychologically detach from work during non-work time had significantly higher emotional exhaustion one year later. The authors concluded that the ability to switch off outside of work is critical to buffering the effects of job demands.8

Research-backed strategies to Increase Resilience and Coping in your workplace

Assist employees in improving their ability to cope with, adapt to, and recover from stress at work.

Individual resilience

Resilience is the ability to effectively cope, adjust and recover quickly from stress and adversity.9 Providing employees with the opportunity to build resilience and coping skills can help them build the resources they need to cope with and bounce-back from current and future stressful situations. The purpose of resilience building programs in the workplace is to provide employees with the skills and personal resources to necessary to bounce back from future set-backs.10

In today’s ever changing environment, resilience is a personal resource that all workers can benefit from. However, the need for strong resilience skills is particularly for employees in high risk industries that are regularly exposed to traumatic or stressful events, such as first responders, and disaster relief.

Possible actions to increase individual resilience include:

  • resilience training programs that incorporate cognitive behavioural therapy components that address thought patterns and responses to stressful events;
  • introduce coaching and mentoring programs; and
  • provide flexible work options that allows individuals to approach stressful situations in a way that works for them.

Individual ability to recover from stress

For employees to perform at their best and manage stress at work, it is important that they have adequate time and opportunity to recover. Being able to switch off from work at the end of the day enables employees to recharge their energy and return to work refreshed. Non-work related activities, physical exercise, mindfulness and relaxation can all assist the recovery process.

Possible actions to support individual ability to recover from stress:

  • stress recovery training programs;
  • provide meaningful breaks after stressful events;
  • provide the opportunity for employees to engage in sport and other physical activity;
  • roster adequate breaks between shifts; and
  • maintain boundaries between home and work life, including limiting email contact, technology use.

Fact

Mindfulness and mindfulness-based techniques have been associated with improved coping with stressful events, faster recovery from negative events, better problem solving, increased job satisfaction, increased working memory and more.11

References

  1. Shin, J., Taylor, M. S., & Seo, M. G. (2012). Resources for change: The relationships of organizational inducements and psychological resilience to employees’ attitudes and behaviors toward organizational change. Academy of Management journal55(3), 727-748.
  2. Vanhove, A. J., Herian, M. N., Perez, A. L. U., Harms, P. D., Lester, P. B. (2016). Can resilience be developed at work? A meta-analytic review of resilience-building programme effectiveness. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 89, 278-307.
  3. Richardson, K. M., Rothstein, H. R. (2008). Effects of occupational stress management intervention programs: A meta analysis. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 13(1), 69-93.
  4. Sonnentag, S., Binnewies, C., & Mojza, E. J. (2010). Staying well and engaged when demands are high: The role of psychological detachment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(5), 965-976.
  5. Sonnentag, S., Binnewies, C., & Mojza, E. J. (2010). Staying well and engaged when demands are high: The role of psychological detachment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(5), 965-976.
  6. Sonnentag, S. (2012). Psychological detachment from work during leisure time: The benefits of mentally disengaging from work. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21(2), 114-118.
  7. Siltaloppi, M , Kinnunen, U. & Feldt, T (2009) Recovery experiences as moderators between psychosocial work characteristics and occupational well-being, Work & Stress,23(4), 330-348.
  8. Sonnentag, S., Binnewies, C., & Mojza, E. J. (2010). Staying well and engaged when demands are high: The role of psychological detachment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(5), 965-976.
  9. Vanhove, A. J., Herian, M. N., Perez, A. L. U., Harms, P. D., Lester, P. B. (2016). Can resilience be developed at work? A meta-analytic review of resilience-building programme effectiveness. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 89, 278-307.
  10. Burton, N. W., Pakenham, K. I., Brown, W. J. (2010). Feasibility and effectiveness of psychosocial resilience training: A pilot study of the READY program. Psychology, Health & Medicine, 153), 266-277.
  11. Glomb, T. M., Duffy, M. K., Bono, J. E., Yang, T. Mindfulness at work. Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management (pp. 115-157). Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
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Promote Thriving is one of three pillars in the Thrive at Work framework, and a contributor to creating a workplace in which employees flourish.