Do you, and does your organization, have what it takes to withstand stresses of the daily grind, and also get to the next level? How can we build personal and organizational resilience to succeed in this ever-changing world of work?
In this new world of work, stresses are plentiful and they look different than they did 10 years ago. According to Julie McCarthy, professor of management at University of Toronto, this is because of:
1) Higher levels of uncertainty. Fear of job loss (owing to automation or changing business needs) leads to a spike in “presenteeism,” where workers are physically at work (worried that they will be replaced if absent), but mentally are burned out or checked-out.
2) Erosion of boundaries between work and personal life. Workers are engaged with work for up to 72 hours a week, which diminishes time for work recovery, making it difficult to rejuvenate from stresses.
3) Heavier workloads. Workers are expected to do more with less and many report not having enough time in the day to get everything done.
In order to rise above these stresses, we need to build resilience within our workers and across our organizations. A few considerations from Prof. McCarthy:
1) Prioritize workers’ well-being. In order to have a work force that is mentally and physically rejuvenated, organizations should encourage workers to embrace healthy and active lifestyle (such as walking meetings, healthier food). In addition, policies and practices should be implemented to help employees create firmer boundaries (some countries outlaw e-mails after certain hours; some workers “bulk” their after-hours e-mails to send after 9 a.m.).
2) Create an optimistic/positive environment. Positivity (and negativity) is highly contagious and has a direct impact on resilience. Leaders should be trained to provide more positive feedback and to role-model a “one-team” approach (that is, “we take care of each other, assume positive intent and have each other’s backs”).
3) Make sure values are clear. Actions need to be consistent with values, especially in difficult times or when facing tough decisions. Demonstrating a supportive and trust-based culture can alleviate much of the stress associated with daily uncertainties.
Finally, organizations need to be attuned to workers’ work-style preferences to understand how and from where people are most at ease and least stressed, and to ensure psychological safety for all by acknowledging and respecting diverse needs. A recent study conducted by Microsoft Canada identifies four workplace personas.
The connected builder (30 per cent of those surveyed): Ambitious, hard-working, passionate about their job, they routinely take work home and chip away at projects at night and on the weekends. They like to work in the office, but also from home, and often in collaboration with teams across the country or abroad.
The autonomous problem solver (30 per cent of respondents): Comfortable in the office, or working from home, or in a client’s space – but they get things done in their own way, independently and with teams. They appreciate a quiet space, and feel productive working at home after hours on projects.
The creative connector (20 per cent of respondents): Love working with others. They thrive on the inspiration and creativity that comes from being part of a close-knit team. But at the same time, as much as they love the buzz of togetherness, they also admit to being more focused and productive when working alone or in a quieter space. They work mainly in the office, and mainly in shared space. They’re less likely to work from home, and tend not to take work home to deal with at night or on the weekend.
The independent ally (20 per cent of respondents): In the office every day, but they like their own space to properly focus. They are conscientious, methodical and independent. They admit that working within a team is motivating and inspiring, but they prefer to work on their own. They find being surrounded by others is distracting and even somewhat stressful.
Considering these personas when designing a work environment (cultural, physical and technological) is critical to building resilience in the workplace: Companies should provide flexible options to allow employees to feel empowered to work according to their individual needs, while allowing them to connect easily with others. One over-arching principle should be, according to Prof. McCarthy, to have at least some opportunities for in-person human interaction, which has been proven to further increase organizational resilience.
What persona fits you or each of your team members best? Take the short quiz here.
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