Resilience and Organisational Culture

How conducive is your organisational culture to facilitating resilience in your employees?Sustained organisational performance requires individuals to have recovery periods. Without recovery periods people burn out. That applies to everyone, even you!

How accommodating is your organisation to supporting people in their essential recovery?
Do you really empower individuals to become resilient or do you, whether knowingly or not, simply perpetuate the somewhat macho culture of ‘pushing through’, ‘Toughing it out’ or ‘getting it over the line’ time and time again? Of course there are times when some of these actions are appropriate but to continually expect these types of behaviours will leave you with an overworked and exhausted workforce. You’ll experience higher staff turnover, higher levels of absence and more mental health issues than you’d like.

Resilience is about recovery
In a recent Harvard Business Review article Shawn Achor wrote about ‘recovery periods’
“The lack of a recovery period is dramatically holding back our ability to be resilient and successful. Research has found that there is a direct correlation between lack of recovery and increased incidence of health and safety problems. Lack of recovery – whether by disrupting sleep with thoughts of work or having continuous cognitive arousal by watching our phones – is costing our companies $62BILLION a year. In lost productivity” [1] When we go home we are not necessarily ‘recovering’…we often spend the evening mulling over potential work solutions and talking about work with others. We rerun conversations in our heads and we problem solve in our sleep.

The key to resilience
The key to resilience is to try really hard (ie get it over the line) stop, recover and then try again. If you have too much time in the performance zone you need more time in the recovery zone. The biological concept of ‘homeostatic value’ determines the ability of the brain to restore and sustain wellbeing. “when the body is out of alignment from overwork we waste vast mental and physical resources trying to restore the balance before we can move forward again” [2] Trying to drum up your resources to ‘try hard’ requires burning energy in order to overcome post exertion low arousal levels (called ‘up-regulation’). This makes your exhaustion levels worse.

How to recover and build resilience
To be clear, ‘stopping’ is not the same as recovering, you need to use both ‘internal recovery’ and ‘external recovery’ tools to be resilient.
‘Internal recovery’ is about taking shorter periods of relaxation during the workday.
‘External recovery’ are actions that take place outside of work, i.e. weekends or holidays.

Recovery actions;
• Take short breaks in the day- pop to the coffee shop, go and talk to someone different, meet someone for lunch or if you’re a Insight’s ‘introvert’ and you value time alone eat lunch alone quietly, this way you’ll replenish.
• Reconnecting with nature -a walk outside through trees, near water or simply in the fresh air.
• Changing the focus of your attention – Switch tasks, do something different, change your work focus or environment.
• Learn to meditate, currently on trend but has been around for generations and we now know through neuroscientific research that it works because it changes the structure of our brains.
• Exercise- a life changer, the key is to find exercise that you love, you may need to forget the gym or the personal trainer and accept that dance or roller blading is your thing. The choice of activity is almost irrelevant, aside from the endorphin effect, the physiological benefits to your health will be significant, and if you’re doing what you love you’ll enter what Csiksgentmihalyi [3] calls ‘flow’ and that gives you a cognitive holiday like no other.

How resilient is your culture?
…So back to my original question – how resilient is your organisational culture?
How does your organisation deal with this need for ‘recovery’?
How would your organisation react to adopting one or two of the techniques listed above?
How would it be if your leadership team role modelled resilient behaviours?
How would you respond if one of your team took time out of the working day to meditate?
How could you adapt your organisational culture to accommodate resilience actions?

I’d love to hear your responses and what’s working for you, drop me a line and let me know what you think

[1] Shawn Achor – Harvard Business Review
[2] Brent Furl – Texas A&M University
[3] Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Flow model

Janette Kirk -Willis

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