By Alan Kohll
When it comes to corporate wellness, it’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing solely on diet and exercise, but it’s important to intentionally address broader health issues.
It makes sense that wellness programs often struggle with a more well-rounded view of wellness because just the word health can mean a lot of different things. It seems straightforward, but the definition of health has come a long way since the conversation first began. What’s evolved is a definition of health that transcends physical health.
In 1948, the World Health Organization defined health as, “A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This definition is still used in the international health realm today
Employee wellness needs to reflect this all-encompassing definition of health. Employee resilience is one wellness issue that, in recent years, has come to encompass both physical and mental health territories. Resilience has become growing focus for employers. According to a survey from Conduent HR Services, 22% of companies already have resilience programs, and 28% are planning to offer them soon.
In every company, there are employees who seem to sail through rough times. When the going gets tough, they’re the epitome of tough, and they get going. These people are resilient, and their resilience allows them to thrive in the face of challenges and bounce back from any disaster. What do employers need to learn in order to foster resilience in the workforce?
Resilience And Physical Health
Resilient employees are physically healthier. The positive emotions that accompany a resilient attitude have been linked to immune systems that simply work better. A high-functioning immune system means an individual’s body can fight off infection more effectively, which leads to fewer instances of illness in the first place. The strong immune system also means the individual can bounce back more quickly from the illnesses that do manage to take hold.
Aside from a better ability to fight illness, resilient employees can also exhibit better productivity. Increased productivity stems both from a resilient employee’s ability to bounce back, meaning they use fewer days of sick leave, as well as from the employee’s ability to perform when they aren’t feeling 100% physically healthy. Resilient employees have a better ability to fight off illness, and therefore can be more productive in the workplace. These employees are simply physically healthier overall.
Resilience can also be a huge benefit for mental health. As people who sail through difficult times seemingly unscathed, that doesn’t mean the difficult times don’t exist. Resilient employees have developed ways to handle setbacks and stress well, instead of folding.
Aside from an ability to bounce back, resilient employees also tend to be ready and willing to learn new skills or take on new roles. This allows them to maintain an attitude of flexibility and openness to corporate changes and improvements.
Resilient employees also perform better under pressure. They aren’t easily fazed and will find a way to focus and do more with less when the situation calls for it. Resiliency is a trait that allows employees to keep a steady head even if the world around them is a bit shaky. These employees can draw on their mental toughness to thrive in difficult situations and bounce back quickly from setbacks.
Teaching resilience can be tough, but there are some ways that companies can foster resilience in the workforce:
Lead by example and build resilience at the leadership level. The resilience of the management team will resonate among employees. It’s important to ensure corporate leaders adopt a sense of personal resiliency in the workplace.
Foster a sense of purpose by encouraging employees to find meaning in the work they do. When employees have a line of sight from their role to the difference the company makes in the world, they’ll be more invested.
Promote a sense of control and confidence among all employees. Employees who feel in control of their work are more resilient because they’ve learned to take ownership and exhibit pride in the work they’re responsible for.
Manage change to ensure the entire company views change as a welcome challenge, rather than an unwelcome roadblock. Changes happen in every company. Those with a culture that supports change can more easily adopt resilience.
Encourage connections among employees. Social support can foster a resilient corporate environment by providing employees with a group of people who can build them up with times are tough.
Address stress levels both individually and as a group. A management team who can sense when tensions are running high can help employees avoid difficult situations as a group, meaning a business “bounce-back” won’t be necessary.
Value a sense of humor. Employees who laugh through challenging circumstances are usually much better off. They can sail through challenges without being broken down.
Nurture grittiness and a sense of mental toughness among employees. The more those traits can grow in each individual, and the stronger resilience will be throughout the organization.
Provide opportunities for learning and professional development. It’s important that, on a regular basis, employees are taught and reminded the best ways to embrace change and manage difficult situations.
Be optimistic and use positive messaging. A positive environment is one that begs for resilience. The opposite is also true. Positivity and resilience go hand-in-hand when it comes to corporate health benefits.
Encourage flexibility and adaptability. If it’s not an option to crumble under pressure, many employees will start to get creative and find a way to push through challenging situations.
Utilize problem-solving skills. Both management teams and more junior employees have skillsets that can be used in tough situations. Companies who merge the two can solve problems effectively and build team camaraderie.
Maintain healthy habits both physically and mentally. Resilience represents the all-encompassing view of health the world has adopted. Companies who recognize that fact can more easily foster employee resilience.
In the ebb and flow of corporate America, it’s true what they say, “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.” Resilient employees embody health on multiple levels. They avoid illness, maintain productivity and operate with mental toughness. Resilient employees are a true asset to any company, and every company should explore ways to nurture a resilient workforce.
Alan Kohll is the founder and president of health and wellness service provider, TotalWellness. Follow TotalWellness on LinkedIn and Twitter.