The key to unlocking the economy starts with the successful control of Covid-19 and much work is being done to strike the right strategic balance that will lead countries and organizations to better outcomes. Behind all the models, new procedures and creative approaches are the individuals who are making all this happen, and businesses and organizations are paying attention. Businesses understand that a resilient workforce goes hand-in-hand with an improved economy and are placing new emphasis on wellbeing and resilience as key to business success.
Employees need to take heed of this message. Economic uncertainty and high unemployment rates only underscore the need to be resilient in the face of change and uncertain times. They can take advantage of energized organizational concerns for employee well-being by responding to efforts made by businesses to address workforce resilience with protocols to reduce health risks and to take actions that future-proof organizations from ongoing disruptions and change.
So what are resiliency, stress tolerance and flexibilty?
Resiliency is the capacity to recover positivity toward self and others — to rebound — after setback, difficulty or unexpected change.
People more inclined toward Resiliency can maintain (or regain) functionality and vitality despite trouble or setback. They effectively combine strength and adaptability. Natural confidence and a positive outlook allow them to view difficulty as opportunity and failure as growth. They assume that their personal best is yet to come and don’t get stuck in disappointment. Instead, they envision the bright and assorted benefits that will result from the eventual attainment of their goals
Stress Tolerance is the capacity to endure pressure or uncertainty without becoming negative (e.g. hopeless, bitter or hostile) toward self or others.
People strong in Stress Tolerance can withstand and may even thrive in high-pressure situations. They effectively rise to the challenge of wrestling problems to resolution and smoothly undergo sudden trouble — say, when a deadline is moved up. Often productive and assured despite ambiguity, they cope with their worries and have space for people’s fluctuating emotions. Others may seek them out for their strength and look to them in times of uncertainty.
The word “flexibility” technically means the ability to bend without breaking. However, people often use it to describe the ability to adjust to changes in your life without creating stress or drama. Being flexible in life means that you can change your plans and adapt to new situations easily.
People often want flexibility in their careers as well. Schools and training programs typically fixate on a defined career path, but most people’s careers do not follow such predictable paths. The ability to be more flexible in a career means that you can learn new skills and assume responsibilities outside of your original position. This can lead to promotions and greater possibilities in your career.
Here are five actions worth considering that could improve your own workplace resilience in today’s uncertain times.
#1 Stay Connected
Social distancing and remote working can drive people apart. Now is the time to strengthen your emotional and social skills to ensure more effective collaboration, strengthen business relationships and make connections. This can be done by phone or video chat, email, text, mail, as well as via social media. Checking on others makes them feel more connected while also building a sense of belonging.
The American Psychological Association research shows that when communication stops, people are prone to imagine the worst. Staying connected provides you and others with the reassurance needed to move forward with confidence.
#2 Improve Digital Capabilities
The necessity of working in a fully digital environment became apparent at the start of the pandemic when office work went remote. During the summer of 2020, a survey by PwC of 120 US company executives and 1,200 US office workers (essential services excluded) showed that the majority (55%) anticipated that office workers would continue to work from home at least one day a week after the pandemic ended. Some surveys report numbers that are even higher. It’s not enough to just get by digitally. Expertise in using workstream collaboration tools: everything from calendaring and email to Slack/Microsoft Teams, content collaboration, Zoom, etc., allows you to focus on your work not the technology enabling it.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reported on a global survey of company leaders done in June that showed that 94% of the organizations studied had technology problems that had impacted their business and employees while employees worked remotely. With the economy open, it is time to gain access to any needed internet and hardware upgrades and repairs, cyber security tools and other tech that can better support remote work flexibility. Also overdue is elimination of any paper-based workflows and streamlining of newly established workflows.
#3 Adjust Work/Life Balance
Remote office work during the pandemic has underscored that a day’s work doesn’t have to replicate the 9 to 5 day. Without a commute, many workers enjoy extra time for exercise, hobbies and family commitments. Yet parents of children continue to face uncertain school schedules and day care resulting in conflicting demands that threaten their workplace resilience and upend the work/life balance. In addition, experts caution that, like shift work, when sleep is sacrificed and circadian rhythms are upset while responding to work and family responsibilities, health and wellbeing are threatened.
Increasingly organizations are more open to new ways of working, and some are accommodating work/life conflicts with flexible approaches. Recently SHRM detailed many of these approaches for its membership in a toolkit called, Managing Flexible Work Arrangements. The varied approaches described include: telecommuting, hybrid workweeks with workdays split between office and home, condensed workweeks (such as 4, 10-hour days and 80 hours in 9 days), job sharing or part-time schedules that keep people in the workforce although in a more limited capacity and customized or flextime work hours (early or late starts that extend beyond normal work hours). Another seemingly enticing arrangement yet deplored by many as deceptive, including Workforce.com, is the controversial unlimited paid time off; an approach that pays employees for results not appearances.
For people who are struggling or just want to improve their work/life balance, these and other alternatives, in the short- or long-term, may help them stay productive, flexible and valuable to their organization.
#4 Future-Proof Skills
One of the key business trends for 2020 is a “race to reskill the workforce,” according to Mercer’s 2020 Global Talent Trends Study of 7,300 senior business executives. The majority of the execs in the study also considered reskilling one of the investments they hope to maintain in an economic downturn. These execs report that their organizations are increasing their agility by moving away from traditional org structures and moving toward more fluid teams who can respond quickly to business priorities. Rather than specific technical skills, these organizations are looking for advanced critical thinking skills, including problem solving and decision making, and for greater project management expertise.
To maintain a place in this agile and resilient workforce, now is the right time to plan for and to develop skills, taking advantage of this organizational commitment to training. Today’s training isn’t restricted to classrooms or self-directed programs. For example, at Kepner-Tregoe all of our solutions are available virtually including facilitation, simulation and training.
Modern training approaches like simulations allow learners to apply new skills in a safe-to-fail environment that builds confidence and experience in the application of new abilities. Project management training helps people improve how they manage their own projects as well as how they contribute in projects managed by others. Critical thinking skills are evergreen capabilities that sustain high value, particularly in periods of crisis, innovation and change.
#5 Understand Health Risks/Address Concerns
Reopened workplaces have new protocols in place to protect employees. Yet it is new territory for everyone. Whether you are working remotely or returning to the office, it is important for you and anyone who reports to you to work inside of the structure your organization has designed for these circumstances but also to voice any concerns as well as ideas about how to work within this new normal. The CDC website is a repository of information about Covid-19 but it also addresses related health risks in How to Cope with Job Stress and Build Resilience During the COVID-19 Pandemic, a review of symptoms of stress, tips for dealing with it and resources for getting help.
Even the most resilient among us can be at risk in a crisis. Reported in an April 2020 Harvard Business Review article, Build Your Team’s Resilience — From Home, research revealed that very resilient people are “geared toward action and what they can control,” sometimes leading to overwork and burn out in a time of crisis. The pandemic has underscored that maintaining good health lays the foundation for a resilient workforce.
Building resilience improves your ability to not only survive periods of uncertainty and change, but to thrive. Many have to struggle just to stay afloat in today’s difficult business climate. But any efforts now to plan for or pursue sought-after skills, improve digital capabilities, stay connected and healthy, and find work/life balance, may not only take advantage of the current business commitment to a resilient workforce but ultimately make you more resilient and employable in today’s new normal.