Author Profile Picture

Nicky Marshall

Discover your Bounce

Director, Wellbeing Facilitator and Publisher

Read more about Nicky Marshall

What does being resilient even mean?

In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Week, let’s look at the true meaning of resilience and how we can be more resilient.
lone tree in middle of desert during daytime representing being resilient and resilience

I was recently presenting a workshop and talked about resilience. One of the attendees asked, “What does that mean?”.

I explained that it was our ability to get through tough times, to recover after a stressful time and that having resilience made us more able to cope at work and in life.

But it got me thinking: are we overusing the word resilience, or do we even know what that means for us as individuals?

Leave room for empathy

Historically we may have been told to ‘man up’ or ‘push through’. People talk about ‘striving for success’ and I’ve been at some company briefings where it has sounded like we were going into battle! 

Resilience has been seen as a badge of honour and something that makes us machine-like and invincible.

When we put a mental health slant on this thinking, it doesn’t leave much room for empathy, compassion, collaboration or support.

Let’s elaborate

When we talk about resilience, we need to elaborate on our thinking and work out two things:

What does resilience look like in our organisation?

How can we as individuals become resilient, and what does that look like?

Are we overusing the word resilience, or do we even know what that means for us as individuals?

Resilience in organisations

When we are looking at our own organisation, we need to ensure that we are achieving our business goals and creating a safe space for our employees. Being resilient means we can be adaptable, that we can flex our routines should things change. For example, if we have more work, or a particular deadline, can we cope with this? If there is a crisis, do we have the procedures in place to deal with this?

To ensure resilience, we need to look to our people and perhaps ask these questions:

  • Do we have the staff numbers to attain our day-to-day objections?
  • Could we cope with an increase in capacity?
  • Are our people correctly trained?
  • Are our leaders capable of leading?

And perhaps more importantly:

  • Are our staff able to complete their current role in normal working hours?
  • What is the ‘mood in the room’? Are they happy? 
  • Do they know our company purpose?
  • Are they engaged and satisfied?

According to research by Garton and Mankins, an engaged employee is 45% more productive than a merely satisfied worker. 

What is more interesting is that an inspired employee (one who has a profound personal connection to their work and/or their company), is 55% more productive than an engaged employee.

Therefore, it is perhaps worth the extra time talking to our employees about the direction of the business, the purpose and the vision.

Knowing more about our employees will reap reward

The personal touch

As for that personal connection to the business, knowing more about our employees will reap rewards, not just productivity.

I listened to a lecture by Dame Carol Black and her thoughts on the future of workplace wellbeing were that employees want to be valued, not just for the role they do, but for themselves as a person. 

Make it your business to know whether someone is moving house, has a young child, is studying or supporting parents.

Onto personal resilience

What works for one person may not work for another. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to building resilience. 

If we can encourage our employees to speak out, talk about what they need, have social gatherings with no specific agenda, then we can ensure we make the right provisions to allow them to thrive.

What works for one person may not work for another

Give employees a say

Now, I understand the constraints of business and we cannot create a multitude of activities to suit every need. Howeve,r a discount on gym membership and a basket of fruit to boost wellbeing may be wasting your time and valuable resources.

Polls are a great way of finding out what your employees may like, rather than presenting them with a plan that they had no say in. Allowing free time where someone can choose their activity can be a great way of finding out what people like.

As an individual, if we can find out what our personal recipe for resilience and wellbeing is, we can feel empowered to make our own choices. For some people they will want a physical activity, for others they may want to learn something new. 

Some people recharge by being around others, for some they need solitude and silence.

When times are good and we are feeling great, it’s worthwhile checking in and asking yourself what contributed to that; was it good sleep? Nutrition? A planned routine? If we know this, then when we are struggling we know what to put in place to bounce back.

Polls are a great way of finding out what your employees may like

It’s not just about mental health

We have talked a lot in recent years about mental health in relation to resilience, but the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is moving more for our mental health. 

When we are in a stressed state of fight or flight, moving can use up the adrenaline we have built up – even just a short walk can reset our stress levels.

I would say there are other elements too, like being a part of a community, knowing what makes you happy and having personal goals and a vision that lights you up.

When we can pull this jigsaw together, as an organisation, as teams and as individuals, we can create that resilience, that bounce back ability, so that we can spend more time thriving and less just surviving.

If you liked this article, read: Identifying the risk factors for suicide within our organisations

Author Profile Picture
Nicky Marshall

Director, Wellbeing Facilitator and Publisher

Read more from Nicky Marshall

Get the latest from HRZone.

Subscribe to expert insights on how to create a better workplace for both your business and its people.


Thank you.