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Are workers really less resilient than they once were? If so, what can employers do about it? 

The jury is out on whether we are more or less resilient than workers of the past. But one thing is without doubt: increasing resilience is never a bad thing for any business. In this post, we look at how and why that’s the case. 

What is resilience? 

We all need resilience. In life, it’s the ability to navigate everyday ups and downs. At work, it’s the ability to face situations with a  generally positive outlook. To not let challenges derail a working day. To handle disappointment, manage relationships and respond to change in the same, healthy, measured way. You might have seen resilience described as ‘bounce-back-ability’ and over the past few years – as we’ve all faced enormous upheaval – it has become an important facet of thriving in a hybrid world. 

Why do businesses need resilient workers? 

Resilience is important in a workforce because, as we all know, things don’t always go to plan. Resilient workers roll with the punches. They keep their head and look for solutions. They are less likely to burn out, more likely to rub along with their fellow workers, and (generally) more confident in their own skin, which makes them more likely to communicate positively and propose ideas that others listen to. 

Resilient workers are more likely to keep focused at work. They’re less likely to be demotivated by, for example, failing to win promotion. They’re typically better at accepting feedback as a tool for growth rather than as a criticism. And although everyone can find it challenging to step outside their comfort zone, resilient people are more likely to do it willingly.  

We can’t all feel at our resilient best all the time, but resilience breeds a measure of control and self-awareness that ensures you know (and can manage or avoid) triggers. Resilience is often found in workers who are best able to maintain a healthy work/life balance, and who don’t take things too seriously. 

Do today’s workers lack resilience? 

Some believe so. Steven Bartlett, entrepreneur, podcaster and BBC Dragon has described Gen Z as ““the least resilient generation I have ever seen”. The Guardian notes that one reason for this may be a pandemic hangover, where “the working day has got longer [but] its rewards have become increasingly less apparent” as “junior staff are sitting silently on video calls, listening to senior staff hold forth.” The BBC notes that an increase in remote working-driven helicopter management (that is, managers who hover over their workers and constantly monitor them) is damaging worker resilience. 

Not everyone agrees, however, and certainly not everyone agrees that a lack of resilience is universal. The Guardian article notes a study from the University of San Diego which found resilience among Gen Z as “relatively ok”. 

Forbes looked at tech workers in the US as the sector suffered some of its worst ever layoffs in early 2023. It found ‘gig working’ freelancers were optimistic, confident and most definitely resilient.  

It doesn’t make for a great pronouncement on the state of the UK workforce, but the answer to the question of whether people are more or less resilient than they once were is ‘it depends’. 

In some ways, however, it doesn’t really matter, because whatever the answer, there’s no doubt that workers and their employers benefit when everyone becomes more resilient than they were. 

How can your business boost resilience in the workplace? 

  • Check in, don’t check on: As the BBC demonstrated above, micromanagement isn’t good for resilience, but workers do need support, regular one-to-one conversations, constructive feedback and recognition to help build resilience. 
  • Create a psychologically safe environment: Give your people the freedom to discuss their anxieties. Listen to them. Then offer empathy, reassurance and practical support wherever you can. 
  • Stay alive to red flags: Train your people – and especially your leaders – to recognise signs of stress and to understand the triggers and cues that may indicate there’s a problem. 
  • Coach resilience: Everyone has a natural level of resilience, but you can train staff to cope better with stressful situations, challenging people or difficult conversations. Give your people the tools to create greater resilience. 

Of course, business resilience isn’t purely about your people. To increase the accuracy and reduce the burden of your payroll, outsource it. Talk to us about that now.