Once again, I must start a blog on the back of some incredibly sad news. The Comms Guru would like to join the nation in its mourning for the passing of Queen Elizabeth II - an event that we all knew would come and, yet, somehow seemed inconceivable.
And with more change and sadness, the topic of mental health is once again in the spotlight.
We know that mental health is the measure of our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Our mental resilience, then, is our preparedness to deal with the curveballs, the setbacks and the blows that life can throw at us – as individuals or as a collective population. And, as a nation, we’ve had a lot thrown at us since the start of the decade.
Resilience at work is critical. We know that change is constant within our businesses and organisations. It’s essential for their survival and growth. But we know that many find change difficult or stressful. Mental resilience can help to counter that fear.
Many of us have some aspects within our roles with which we aren’t totally comfortable. It might be a fear of public speaking that sends us into a panic when we have to deliver a presentation or host a meeting. We may have difficulty in receiving feedback that leaves us an embarrassed or frustrated mess. Many of us will have triggers within our day-to-day work lives that push those stress levels up. Mental resilience can help to counter that, too.
So, is mental resilience something that we are born with or something that we can learn and grow? Typically, it’s a bit of both! Just as we are all born with unique looks, abilities, and personality traits, we are all born with differing levels of mental resilience. But this is also shaped by our life experiences and by those around us who influence and teach us. We develop strategies to help us cope and learn from seeing how others do the same.
Employers can have some influence when it comes to resilience across workplace teams. And it is absolutely in their interest to do so. Low-level resilience results in teams that are pessimistic and fearful of change, that require constant guidance and support but are wary of management, and that are rigid and reactive. Strong mental resilience across teams results in perseverance and commitment to tasks, proactivity and adaptability, initiative and problem-solving skills, and that good old “can-do” attitude that all employers value.
A key influence over resilience at work is the feeling of belonging. We all need to feel a part of something significant, with shared values and purpose. We need to know that what we do matters and has value, and we want to know that we are not alone in our hopes, fears, stresses, and strains. Therefore, good internal communication and robust connections will ensure that stronger relationships are built, resulting in people being more supportive of each other, showing more empathy, and being more mentally resilient. A robust internal comms strategy is vital in nurturing that strength and resilience across our teams.
Training, support and feedback are also crucial. Taking the earlier example of a fear of public speaking as an example, the more training and support (on, say, giving a presentation) that someone with that anxiety is given, the more resilient they will feel. They will, no doubt, still be nervous, but those nerves should be reduced, and overall anxiety diminished. Positive, meaningful, and constructive feedback after the event will further build up resilience for the next time.
This is all linked to a culture of psychological safety across our organisations. Safety and resilience go hand in hand. On top of communication, connectivity, collaboration, and feedback, never underestimate the importance of asking colleagues for their thoughts, ideas, suggestions, feedback and feelings. Doing this, and actively listening to them, will build trust and make them feel more valued, more relevant and -you guessed it- ultimately more resilient.
From two-way one-to-ones, “my time” sessions with leaders, open forums at team meetings, employee surveys and quick polls, interactive tech’ at remote or large in-person meetings, there are many ways to ensure our people have a voice and feel valued. That will boost mental reliance across our teams and leave us all more prepared to face whatever is coming our way.