Stress management and workplace wellbeing.
Resilience is a word that we hear frequently these days in the arena of mental health. What does resilience actually mean? Resilience to a flu bug is what comes to mind for me in regard to physical health but evidently as workers it is something we are asked to display increasingly as a result of stressful working conditions and a decrease in resources. The NHS is asked to deliver ever more with ever less it seems and its staff members are at the sharp end of the disappointment, aggression and often dismay that we as patients are displaying as operations are cancelled and beds are not available.
The public sector is obviously the big loser of the austerity measures that have been forced upon us for several years now. However, the private sector is also increasingly putting pressure on workers to deliver more without pay rises or bonuses or recompense of any sort. The idea of resilience seems to me to be a way of saying “this is what we ask of you, find a way of dealing with it.”
How about this may be a harsh description to tarnish all work environments with? Of course, you may be a compassionate boss or an employee of a superb manager. We know that the workplace is not always stressful or unfulfilling. Gladly, I love to hear from people who smile as they tell me they are well looked after by their boss and feel cherished in their employment.
But the statistics stack up in favour of dwindling contentment with working conditions, pay freezes and ill equipped staff for ever changing job descriptions. The hope that as we age, our experience will earn us more is never guaranteed as often youth is prioritised and loyalty is not appreciated. Stagnation is what industry is afraid of and this is reflected in the attitude towards the ageing employee who is no longer deemed to be “fresh” enough or adaptable enough in the face of changing dynamics. Being asked to be “resilient” in the face of such challenges can lead to despondency and feel, lets face it, a bit one-sided.
Generally speaking, most would agree that awareness of mental health conditions among adults and young people is obviously on the rise. We are unashamed to admit a physical health problem more often than not and nowadays, hopefully, it isn’t shameful to admit that we are depressed or anxious. Nevertheless, having been invited into organisations as a stress therapist, the number of people who will reveal a long-term mental health condition in light only of the work we have done together is surprising. It would seem that shame and embarrassment around the ability to cope mentally within the workplace is still alive in some organisations. This would imply that management are under the impression that an employee seems resilient in that they are showing up for work and getting average results (and can be overworking and overproducing even) but actually they may not feel supported or particularly well managed perhaps. It can be simply fear of failure or reluctance on the employee’s part to admit frailty – or past trauma even – that keeps them from asking for help. Of course they may be suspicious or unhopeful that their grievances or struggles will be met with compassion. My experience has highlighted that support from a manager and ultimate boss where possible is an absolute must after an employee has mustered the courage to admit their resilience levels are beginning to slip. Certainly if a manager invites me in to their organisation to help with so called “stress resilience” or wellbeing issues, I stress that they must be prepared to accept the findings of my work that can and do open up issues of mental health, workplace stress or bullying – and be prepared to support their staff as follow up.
Work place resilience can mean different things to different people. The stress management and workplace wellbeing workshops I lead within organisations will highlight to management that staff are either coping well and are happy or are underfed in terms of leadership that sustains their creativity and their career satisfaction or progression. After all, the team environment is everything in terms of success and flourishing within the whole organisation which means that no team or reluctant team leads to inevitable decline in trade, output or endeavour. In this light, I believe that the word “resilience” in the workplace should not imply the ability to simply cope with what is thrown at you but suggest an enablement of staff to actually thrive and blossom within an organisation. Thriving and blossoming to me is a recipe for success for the longevity of the organisation or company.
A further application that I offer to both team and management is an opportunity to express thanks and appreciation to one another in subtle ways through wellbeing initiatives that are actually not about face to face dialogue which can feel awkward and uncomfortable for some. I use body based interventions for so much of my work as a group of calm nervous systems, relaxed brains and equally relaxed bodies, that are grounded and safe, promotes a group harmony and togetherness in which all are nourished equally and able to sustain each other indirectly. Many report that the effects of these shared sessions seem to continue not just throughout the day but give so much food for thought later on in the week as well. Should this sound refreshing and even intriguing, why not contact me at Paths to Peace to see how you organisation could benefit from stress management and workplace wellbeing techniques with smiling and creativity guaranteed!