Most of us can handle a single event, but repeated stress over a period of time can have significant health impacts and has been linked to major diseases. The fallout costs employers billions of dollars in healthcare, absenteeism, turnover and low employee engagement annually.
Company-sponsored wellness and awareness programs—yoga classes, meditation apps and health savings accounts—are helpful, but they’re not enough. Workplace culture has to support well-being. If an employee works for a toxic manager, is expected to wade through 200-plus daily emails in addition to their work, or feels ashamed to tell anyone about their deteriorating mental health, their well-being declines. It becomes harder to bounce back. In that environment, encouraging employee responsibility for well-being is a message that is likely to ring hollow.
There’s a lot that business leaders can do to dramatically improve the culture in their organizations. Here are five strategies to help develop resilience:
1. Build sensitivity at the top. Traditionally, we’ve trained leaders to optimize performance. Now they need to manage for well-being as a performance driver. Leaders with consistently high turnover rates and low engagement scores need training and coaching. When all else fails, show them the door. Build well-being leadership practices into development programs. Recognize high-performing leaders who grow a team culture of belonging, respect and well-being.
2. Give your employees autonomy. Command and control is out. Trust and decentralized decision-making are the keys to drive innovation and support growth. Start from a place of trust and give every employee the direction, freedom and decision-making power they need to demonstrate success. Offer flexibility in where and when they do their work.
Encourage risk taking and allow room for mistakes. Institutionalize consistent feedback so that employees and managers always know where they stand.
3. Encourage social connection. Loneliness is at epidemic levels. Social infrastructure and the value placed on personal interaction are on the decline. Build shared spaces where employees bump into each other to share conversation and ideas. Include remote employees and satellite locations in team and company activities. Encourage coffee breaks, lunch away from the desk, and events outside of work. Create device-free interactions. Find ways to casually share ideas and build social capital.
4. Remember the golden rule. Treat others as you would like to be treated. Bring civility back into the workplace. Gratitude, compassion, empathy, authenticity, being fully present and attentive—these are characteristics of the best leaders.
5. Live your values. If you expect constructive behavior, you have to live it. Demonstrated, it can increase the humanness of your workplace and, in turn, employee resilience. Show you’re serious.
Since the Great Recession it’s been standard procedure to maximize profits by putting performance ahead of well-being. It’s time to recognize employee well-being drives that performance we seek. Your employees’ health depends on it; your organization’s financial health depends on it. Higher employee productivity will result. Resilience drives performance.