The role of resilience in the workplace

Aug 17, 2018

While it’s good to be able to manage stress and hostile situations, if your workplace is putting a strain on your mental health then resilience may not be the only answer. We spend a third of our day at work so we need to be able to identify what is causing the stress in the first place and put steps in motion to move forward.

Resilience, while not the be-all and end-all of skills to have at work, is a vital skill to have.

When we talk about resilience, we’re talking about the ability to cope with the ups and downs and bounce back from challenges. In a workplace setting, this can be applied to employees’ abilities to manage anything from a tough workload to frustrating colleagues. It is said that those with greater resilience are better able to manage stress, which is a risk factor for conditions such as anxiety and depression.

There are many different views about how important resilience is and how much emphasis we should put on it in the workplace.

An article on the ABC website states that resilience is about much more than the ability to ‘bounce back’:

“Resilient people have strong resources and skills to manage stress and conflict as well as a good support network to help them deal with the pressures of work.

Resilience is more than coping however. Resilient people are also flexible, adapt to new and different situations, learn from experience, are optimistic and ask for help when they need it.”

Dr Sam Harvey, a psychiatrist with Black Dog Institute, believes "enhancing resilience removes the notion that employees are passive recipients of workplace stress without anything they can do about it."

CEO at the Institute of Managers and Leaders, David Pich, agrees that resilience isn’t just about learning ways to cope with unfavourable situations but about “identifying ways that will help you move forward so you don’t get ‘stuck’ in places that are detrimental to your overall wellbeing.”

So what constitutes a ‘detrimental’ workplace?

  • Negative work culture where people aren’t encouraged or supported
  • Stress, heavy workload, unrealistic deadlines
  • Poor communication
  • Uncertainty around job role and responsibility
  • People with mental health conditions aren’t supported
  • Discrimination

If these are sounding all too familiar – being resilient isn’t going to make these things go away and over a long period of time these can start to affect your mental health.

Creating a healthy workplace isn't as difficult as you might think

If you’re in a position to make changes in your team or organisation here are some ideas for what you can do:

  • Encourage leaders to make a commitment to mental health in the workplace by offering education or training in mental health.
  • Focus on the work environment: simple things like natural light, plants, standing desk options, social meeting spaces.
  • Create flexible working arrangements combined with discounts from nearby fitness establishments or providing options to relax within the office environment.
  • Free counselling through an Employee Assistance Program or another peer support program.
  • Policies to swap pay for leave.

Read our strategies for a mentally healthy workplace for more tips

There are also some things that you can do to help improve your own resilience.

Thinking and coping strategies like mindfulness can help improve judgement accuracy and decision making, while lifestyle factors like getting enough exercise and eating healthy can help keep your mental health on track. Having a strong support network outside of work can also help support you and contribute to a more resilient skill set.

Find out more ways to better take care of yourself


Man holding phone surrounded by work

Top Stories