How to build resilience  

Article by Emma Yearwood, Director of HR at Sodexo Engage 

Picture of yawning young woman designer sitting in office at night using computer.2020 has been a year like no other. From a pivot to working from home, to riding the highs and lows of going into lockdown, coming out of lockdown, and going back into lockdown, to facing the economic impact of the crisis.

But if this year’s challenges have taught us anything, it’s the need to be resilient 

What is resilience?  

In its annual Global Resilience Report, SpringFox defined resilience as “a learned ability to bounce, grow, connect, and flow”. In simple terms, to be resilient means having the ability to ‘bounce back’ after a challenge. At work this can mean taking a situation and using it as a chance to develop and learn something from.  

There are plenty of benefits to being resilient, especially at work. Not only does it help you handle stress better and develop strategies to combat that stress, but it can also help you achieve greater job satisfaction, engagement, and performance, according to research. Outside of work, studies have found that raising resilience can contribute to improved self-esteem, sense of control over life events and can even contribute to a sense of purpose in life.     

However, telling someone to be resilient, and them developing that resilience are two completely different things, especially when you also consider the challenges women face in the workplace 

What does resilience mean for women?  

SpringFox found that women in the workplace lag behind men on almost all factors of resilience. The barriers often lie in the traditional obstacles women face: lower selfconfidence and greater self-criticism, balancing childcare with their professional workload, as well as a tendency to put others’ needs before their own. Many women tend to face personal challenges when it comes to resilience, but they also have to contend with professional and systemic challenges that their male counterparts may not have to encounter. 

With these increased barriers and pressures, it can be hard for women to develop the skills they need to build resilience. However, without it, many women could struggle at work with anxiety undermining action, putting a dent in their career progression. Research from Accenture found that resilience can play a big part in career development finding that more than two-thirds (71%) of corporate leaders reported that resilience is very to extremely important in determining who to retain within their organisation.  

How to be more resilient  

We can build resilience through careful consideration and practice and thinking about three key factors:  

1. How are you thinking?  

Are you approaching events rationally? Or are you having a knee-jerk emotional reaction? If so, you should focus on cognitive restructuring, which simply means changing how you think about negative situations and tricky events occurring. Instead of seeing a new task as something that is completely out of your depth, cognitive restructuring means thinking of this task as a chance to learn something new and perhaps show off your skillset to a colleague or manager. 

2. Are you reaching out to others? 

Sometimes we assume being resilient means being a lone wolf who can take on any task. In reality, being resilient also means being able to call upon others to help us meet the challenges we face. Are you talking with your colleagues about a task that feels daunting? Have you considered talking with your managers about flexible working, lessening the stress incurred when balancing personal and professional needs?  

A problem shared is a problem halved, and resilience is also about knowing when to ask for help.  

3. Are you looking after yourself?  

Looking after your wellbeing can be tricky – this year has proved that. With lockdowns and restrictions many of us have found it difficult to differentiate the lines between work and life and making sure we get the balance right. But our wellbeing plays a huge factor in our ability to be resilient. If you feel strong both mentally and physically, it can be easier to tackle stress and face challenges ahead on 

We’re fortunate to live in an era where there’s plenty of ways to bolster wellbeing. Depending on what you need it could be as simple as going on a walk every morning before work or reaching out for mental health support. There’s plenty of ways employers can help this too, with benefits such as an Employee Assistance Programme or gym membership.  

It’s ok to not be ok 

When things get difficult, it’s natural for emotions to come into play. Some days you will be able to approach tasks calmly and handle the stress triggered, but some days this will feel impossible to do. Nobody is perfect and nobody is 100% resilient.  

2020 has shown that things can be difficult in completely unforeseen ways. When this happens, it’s important to be compassionate with yourself and recognise the emotions you are feeling.   

Having a level of vulnerability at work can also be an advantage; famous research professor and bestselling author, Brené Brown once said that “vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change. Being open with your emotions can help build meaningful relationships with colleagues, ultimately lending itself to better understanding, while fostering greater collaboration and innovation amongst teammates.  

Emma YearwoodAbout the author

Emma is the Director of HR at Sodexo Engage and is responsible for managing and providing strategy on the people function for the entire organisation. She has over 18 years of experience working in the industry, and is passionate about maximising the employee experience, and improving gender balance and equality.



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