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Four factors that influence resilience in the workplace

Individuals   

A resilient individual is someone who maintains good mental health and productivity generally, as well as during times of stress or adversity.

Skills in emotional regulation, awareness of when to ask for help, self-esteem, confidence in individual ability and problem focussed coping skills are protective factors that may boost individual resilience.

Stressful life events, a mismatch between skills and the job, prior mental ill health as well as chronic health problems and a low perception of their own health, are risk factors that may reduce individual resilience.

Practical strategies to build individual resilience

  • Individual resilience training grounded in evidence based approaches, for example Cognitive Behavioural Training or Mindfulness/Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.
  • Enhancing worker involvement in workplace decisions, for example representation on workplace committees.
  • Providing workers with appropriate control or say in how and when they do their work, for example flexible working initiatives, shift work and rostered time off. 
  • Training to help workers manage stressful situations.
  • Workplace physical activity programs.
  • Promotion of self-help websites or other electronic health initiatives. 
  • Recognising and rewarding good work.
  • Encouraging managers to have regular conversations with their workers to ‘check in’ to see how they are going.
  • See the Working Together: Promoting mental health and wellbeing at work guide for information on how to build individual resilience and how to look after yourself.

Research results—Resilience impacting on return to work at the individual level

Comcare’s recent injured worker survey produced a number of interesting findings in relation to resilience:

  • Injured workers with high resilience tend to recover more quickly, return to work more quickly and have less expensive claims.
  • Injured workers who reported having poor health were 16 times more likely to report low levels of resilience.
  • Injured workers who expected to recover fully or almost fully were more likely to report high levels of resilience than those who were less positive about their recovery. 

For more information visit Comcare’s Research Team page.

Individual jobs

A job that helps build resilience can only be created in a workplace that monitors risk and reduces this risk.

Examples of protective factors that may improve individual job resilience include workplace engagement, role clarity with regular feedback and recognition, job satisfaction and meaningful and flexible work. Meanwhile, risk factors that may reduce resilience at work include high demand, a lack of control over work, poor performance feedback and job insecurity.

Matching the job to the skills and abilities of a worker and providing appropriate training and support are very important for improving resilience. 

Practical strategies to build job resilience

  • Providing workers with autonomy and appropriate demands and control. For example, providing scope for workers to plan their work and make decisions about how their work is done.
  • Working with the Human Resources Team to identify specific job risks to mental health. For example, periods of high work demand, change or conflict.
  • Having regular conversations between the manager and worker to support the worker’s performance. This can include providing job clarity and identifying support the worker may need.
  • Regular communication and consultation with workers about issues that affect them directly.
  • See the following information sheets in the Working Together: Promoting mental health and wellbeing at work guide for more information on:

Teams

A resilient team buffers its members against the adverse effects of stress and helps minimise known risk factors.

Protective factors that can help to build resilience within a team include supportive managers, trust and respect between team members, the ability to make reasonable adjustments, as well as good communication.

Conflict and breakdown in relationships, team stigma around mental health and poor leadership and communication are risk factors that may reduce a team’s resilience.

Practical strategies to build team resilience

  • Manager training to provide skills and confidence to help and support team members when needed.
  • Commitment statement from senior leaders to be active participants in creating mentally healthy workplaces.
  • Training on how to deal with bullying or interpersonal conflict.
  • Regular communication between team members. 
  • Peer support programs.
  • Mentoring schemes. 
  • Team social events to foster increased co-worker support.
  • Regular informal team catch-ups to build team cohesion.
  • Education to recognise and respond to mental ill health.
  • See the following information sheets in the Working Together: Promoting mental health and wellbeing at work guide for more information on:

Organisations 

Resilient organisations are characterised by strong leaders and an ability to positively adapt to a changing environment.

Protective factors that may build resilience at the organisational level include clear organisational goals and objectives, visible and accessible senior management, consultation and good systems to support ill or injured workers.

Conversely, risk factors that can reduce organisational resilience include a lack of accountability, poorly managed organisational change, a lack of action around known problems, and a lack of senior leader support for mental health.

Practical strategies to build organisational resilience

  • Senior management are actively involved in creating mentally healthy workplaces. 
  • Mental health policy including a bullying policy.
  • Establish a working group (with senior representation) to discuss responsibilities for psychological resilience strategies.
  • Encourage a culture of flexibility and worker involvement in decisions.
  • Ensure high levels of organisational justice through a focus on respect and dignity and fair distribution of resources. 
  • Mental health literacy programs for all workers. 
  • Policies and programs to reduce mental health stigma.
  • Employee assistance programs.
  • Regular worker engagement surveys.
  • Assess and address mental health risk factors through risk assessments such as the People at Work psychosocial risk assessment tool
  • Policies to support and encourage people to seek help early.
  • Consider mental health in any proposed major organisational change.
Page last updated: 30 Jul 2014