The importance of employee resilience
Today, I am sharning the final installment of this mini-series focused on promoting employee resilience for remote workers. In this series, I have been sharing risks associated with working remotely. When I describe working remotely, I refer mainly to employees at home. Or they are employees with sales or recruiting jobs that require them to be in the community or similar positions. Of course, most of the change in the work world is not the field employees but those who had office-based roles before COVID. A recent Gallup poll of 8,000 remote-ready workers found that only 20% wanted to work in the office full-time.
Many employees now work from their residence or in a hybrid situation where they only work in an office several times a week. For many, this provided a work-life balance not experienced previously. It also reduced or eliminated commuting altogether. Additionally, employees gained the ability to focus on caregiving responsibilities. For some, it enabled the opportunity to increase their capacity to volunteer in the community.
Why reducing risk now increased resilience later
As resilience or risk professionals, there’s a vested interest in mitigating situations where adverse events can occur. So, analyzing and identifying gaps in the process limits future exposure. If we take the opportunity today to encourage employees to adopt good hygiene in understanding and lessen chances for risk, it ensures the organization faces fewer challenges down the road. Indeed, we want to create cross-functional opportunities where experts across the organization get together to identify potential pain points for when employees work from home (WFH).
I already spoke about safety, security, and operational resilience. Yet, another central area remains, and that is to address how companies can support employees’ well-being in the new normal of working from home. Not everyone is like me and takes to working remotely. I am fortunate to have opportunities to travel or interface with colleagues across the globe via video conferencing. Yet, I am mindful that we must pay attention to struggling employees who work better in the office.
Employee who are at risk
As a first step, I encourage you to map out who in your organization may experience challenges working from home 100% or part-time. Firstly, any employee who suffers from preexisting mental health issues is of concern. Of course, this does not mean they will develop or problems will be exacerbated by working remotely, but it is a population to note and continue to provide outreach to. Services like meQuilibrium, the value of which I mentioned before in my blogs, provide self-learning and virtual conference opportunities to support wellness. meQuilibrium is an employee resilience solution, but meditation, fitness, weight-loss, and similar services can provide individual or group wellness opportunities.
Other groups to consider are extroverts, who thrive on in-person interactions. A sales team is a classic example of a group of extroverts. However, Andrew Shatte, Ph.D., chief knowledge officer and co-founder of meQuilibrium, stated in a Fast Company article that this changes the longer COVID goes on as everyone needs some level of connectedness. “However, by the end of 2020, we saw large spikes in loneliness, and introverts and extroverts were equally affected,” he says. “Burnout occurs when the demands placed on us greatly outstrip our psychological, emotional, and physical resources. Everyone needs social contact to preserve mental wellbeing.” So, anyone who lives alone or does not have a social network is at risk.
Additionally, increased stress levels can be a factor. Many employees reported increased stress about WFH as they had difficulty shutting off from work because they experienced increased 24/7 availability. Last, some employees struggle to maintain discipline or balance to work from home and may need more hands-on supervision.
Is employee wellness our job?
Promoting employee resilience for remote workers is not entirely the domain of resilience professionals. However, as part of the overall vision for resilience, it is essential not to overlook the component that organizational stability relies on the health of its employees. Suppose employees are not encouraged to manage their own mental and physical fitness. In that case, there is an increased chance; that they will not be able to endure the problematic situations that crisis response engenders.
Melissa Agnes argues that all employees should be crisis ready. And although she’s referring to the fact that everyone should understand appropriate crisis communication protocols, I believe all employees should have essential home and workplace preparedness. Developing mental and physical toughness and resilience practices supports flexible, agile workers. I’m not letting us off the hook, either. Self-Care For Disaster Professionals is vital, as we are prominent resilience leaders. So, not only do we have a duty to be good role models, but being a champion for personal and organization-wide resilience makes sense.
How to promote employee wellbeing
Promoting health, safety, and caution is on everyone’s mind. We don’t want to overtax our best workers, nor do we want to lose people in critical roles. Of course, every employee’s health should be of concern. From a resiliency perspective, we want our crisis team members to be ready and available when needed. They should be prepared for the short-term, condensed stress of incident management but also long-haul events like Hurricanes Harvey, Sandy, and of course, the extreme case of the worldwide pandemic.
As practitioners, we can help plan for employee’s health, including mental stability, by:
- Focus on working within Human Resources, Employee Relations, Talent, Workforce, Strategic Planning, and your resilience pillars to define what resources are best for your population.
- Suggest developing an Emotional First Aid program for your workforce. If you didn’t read my blog on the topic, catch up here. In short, it’s a methodology to screen for and support employees with mental health issues.
- As I mentioned, encourage the above stakeholders to offer various channels to support employees’ mental and physical health. A good offering includes ways to reduce stress.
- Offer opportunities for social gatherings in-office to encourage connectedness.
- Consider your company culture. Some organizations, especially creatives, find that in-person work best. I know I argued in Is Working From Home A Business Risk against Malcolm Gladwell’s statement, “It’s not in your best interest to work at home.” However, I realize that some industries do better or must be in-person. So, consider that.
- Support Psychological First Aid (PFA) efforts in your communities when disasters strike or drill down with your EAP what their capabilities are. Emotional First Aid and PFA are not the same things. Yet, they can work in tandem. Grief counseling is helpful, but clinicians need specialized training in disaster-focused techniques to be successful rather than do harm.
- Finally, be a champion for this aspect of resilience. Resilience focuses on Operational and Organizational. But, forgetting the importance of nurturing and supporting the employee base misses a big piece of the resilience rubric. Think of it as the bedrock of resilience.
Resilience now and in the future
Remember that a resilience approach protects your business from attacks and adverse events, including operational interruptions. A workforce that falls short in critical situations is not suitable for business. We’ve all heard of responders and essential workers deserting their posts to care for their families and home. And yes, in extreme cases, all bets are off. However, it makes sense that we preemptively prepare our workforce to face calamities.
Doing this increases their viability to support critical operations during a crisis and correlates to community preparedness. Educating your workforce on the benefits of at-home disaster preparedness and what to do when in the office enlightens them. Often, it spurs them to give back to their community by volunteering and sharing the disaster-ready message. Foundationally, employees prepared for disasters have a better success rate than those who aren’t. We know this.
Yet, the entire world suffered together through the pandemic. Let’s do more now to prepare our colleagues and help build their resilience so that when the next disaster arrives, we are all ready for it—no matter where we are working from. This mini-series addressed risk for the burgeoning work-from-home population across the globe. You and I can affect positive change. Let me know in the comments below if you agree and any additional recommendations to build a resilient virtual or in-person workplace. Promoting employee resilience for remote workers only has an upside in my book.