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Weathering the Storm: Resilience in the Workplace

The new term helping your employees be their best mentally


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People are faced with traumatic life events every day, including workplace violence, harassment and discrimination, natural disasters or the death of a loved one. The effects of others’ trauma can negatively impact work and home life—and that impact can have a ripple effect for millions of Coloradans.

There are many ways local business owners can help improve the mental well-being of their employees, including a new trend in trauma-informed care called resilience.

Why is resilience important?

Resilience is an inner strength that helps employees across all working industries bounce back after stressful situations. When your employees have the necessary tools to be resilient, they may recover more quickly from setbacks or difficult changes, including illness.

Being resilient doesn't mean that your employees will find it easy to deal with difficult or stressful situations or that they won't feel angry, sad, or worried during tough times. But it does mean that they won't feel so overwhelmed. They’ll be less likely to give up and more likely to cope with stressful situations in healthy ways.

For example, negative emotions, such as worry and stress from a new project at work can cause tense muscles and pain, headaches, and stomach problems. These harmful symptoms can directly impact how your employees manage their workload and, ultimately, affect your bottom line. Having a positive outlook on life might help your employees better handle pain or stress than someone who is less hopeful.

How can you build resilience in the workplace?

Employees who are resilient often work hard to have a positive outlook on life—it’s a constant pursuit to shift their way of thinking. As a decision maker in your business, you may be able to help your employees begin this shift toward resilience. Here are some tips to get started on building this in your workplace:

Restore and Recover

Start with relaxing. Encourage your employees to unplug from their phones or computers for a few minutes each day. When the weather allows, promote getting outside for walking meetings or taking a moment out of hectic workdays to step away from the desk.

Get Support, Give Support

Help your employees map out a social network. This doesn’t require a lot of your time and can help tremendously. If your workplace culture allows, use a little time in your one-on-ones to talk about how the people in your employees’ lives outside of work can help support them in their time of need. Remind your employees about your employee assistance programs, too. 

Write It Down

Writing a list of positive events in a gratitude journal has been shown to create a sense of calm. Start with writing down five things you feel grateful for in the workplace. This will help you hone in on what’s important especially when our jobs can feel like they don’t yield many positives—it can be hard to see the forest for the trees. You can also share this gratitude journaling as a best practice for your employees. It’s a great way to spark creativity and encourage positive feedback in your workplace. By using some free whiteboard space in your conference room and asking people to contribute anonymously, you can make this kind of gratitude journaling a team effort. 

Make It Personal

Use sticky notes to write a small commitment toward a goal. This will be your personal action plan. Use proactive words like “I choose to.” Make it specific, realistic, and something you can do this week. Put it where you will see it every day. Under your personal action plan, write the names of two people who can help you reach your goal.

Interact

There are resources available to businesses that offer interactive resilience training in a workplace setting. In fact, school districts in Colorado—which employ more than 55,000 teachers—now have access to a complimentary resilience program from Kaiser Permanente. The program is called Resilience in School Environments Understanding and Practice (RISE UP). It’s a two-hour learning session for school staff, administrators, and teachers designed to foster resilience and support school staff as they work with traumatized students. There are other free resources available to business owners in Colorado, too.

As a business leader, you understand one of your most important tasks is helping your employees be successful in their work. And the daily stresses of professional life mixed with the pressures of personal life make for a potentially harmful work environment. By incorporating resiliency into your workplace, you can help your employees cope with their feelings, increase long-term happiness, improve wellbeing, and drive your business forward.

Curtis Robbins is Kaiser Permanente Colorado’s lead for community health and RISE UP program architect. For more information on the RISE UP program, or for school districts interested in this program, please contact Robbins at 303-229-4722

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