How to Build Resilience in the Workplace

UPDATED: April 23, 2024
PUBLISHED: April 24, 2024
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Resilience is often attributed to people who survive catastrophic events or manage extreme illnesses or other difficult situations. However, having resilience in the workplace can help you cope with stress, perform at your best and face challenges with confidence and poise. 

Building resilience at work takes practice, but it can be an excellent way to help you avoid burnout and unnecessary stress.

What is resilience in the workplace?

Resilience is the general ability to withstand or quickly recover from difficult situations. Developing workplace resilience can help you keep problems in perspective, learn from challenges and generally feel more optimistic about the future. This might mean keeping difficult personalities or situations in perspective, coping with layoffs (or the threat of layoffs) or moving forward after a big mistake or challenge. 

All these situations can take a toll on your mental health, especially if you feel that you have to put on a brave face for your boss, employees or family and push down any negative feelings like fear or anger.

While you can’t prevent mistakes or negative situations from happening, keeping a positive attitude while still acknowledging that things are difficult can help you cope and bounce back from trouble. 

What is a good example of resilience at work?

Everyone is different, but you likely already have at least a little practice building workplace resilience. Pushing through on a demanding project or meeting a tight deadline are examples of day-to-day resilience that most of us do without giving ourselves credit. 

Workplace resiliency can be subtle, but some examples of showing resilience at work include:

  • Learning from failure. If you’ve ever tried to do something new or get a project off the ground, you have probably experienced failure in one form or another. Resilience doesn’t come from never failing. Instead, when things don’t go as planned, build resilience by acknowledging your feelings and analyzing what went wrong and how to avoid the issue in the future. 
  • Dealing with a challenging employee or client. You may have had to deliver feedback to an employee who did not take it well or let a client know that there was a problem with their project. Remaining patient, calm and empathetic while still holding boundaries can be a great example of resilience at work. You don’t have to let someone yell at you, but regulating your emotions when an employee or client is upset helps you maintain perspective and a positive attitude. 
  • Navigating organizational changes. When companies experience layoffs or close altogether, many find themselves out of work through no fault of their own. If this happens to you, remember that you don’t need to pretend you’re happy that your company is downsizing or restructuring. But keeping the changes in perspective, maintaining a positive outlook and adapting to new situations can help you bounce back faster. 

The impact of resilience in the workplace

Learning how to build resilience at work can help workers improve depression symptoms and increase productivity, especially in a high-stress job. Research has indicated that resilient workers handle stress better than their less-resilient counterparts and that resilience training can be effective in reducing job strain and increasing job satisfaction. 

The findings of a 2022 Gallup poll led to estimates that missed work can generally cost the U.S. economy about $47.6 billion annually in lost productivity. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), adding resiliency training to workplace culture can help employees cope with workplace stress, guard against burnout and teach people how to remain calm under pressure, among other physical and emotional benefits. 

While even the best boss can’t change workplace culture alone, equipping employees with these tools can be invaluable to workforce resilience and overall productivity. The AHA found that in addition to helping employees cope with negative workplace experiences, resilience can lead to greater job satisfaction, workplace happiness, organizational commitment and employee engagement. 

What happens when leaders show resilience in the workplace?

As a leader, maintaining a resilient attitude at work can inspire your team to do the same. A negative outlook will affect a leader’s ability to do their job, and negativity at the top can often impact employee engagement and productivity.

By showing resilience in the workplace, leaders signal to their teams that although problems arise, working together as a team, brainstorming ways to overcome challenges and listening to differing opinions are core company values and part of building a thriving work culture.

How do you know if you need more resilience in the workplace?

Building resilience is like exercise: The more you practice, the better you’ll get. Start by asking yourself how you feel most days at work and if there’s any way to improve any negative or hopeless feelings you regularly experience. 

Keep track of how often you feel negative or apathetic about work compared to feeling positive or empowered. Your personal workforce resilience quizlet might include the following questions and observations:

  • How many times do you experience frustration with yourself or others?
  • How often do you engage in negative self-talk or berate yourself for a mistake?
  • What makes you feel hopeless, worthless or like nothing you do can change the outcome?
  • Are you sleeping well, or do thoughts of work make it difficult to fall or stay asleep?
  • Do you wish you enjoyed more about your work, especially things you used to think were fun?

While very few people are genuinely happy to go to work every single day, most people generally enjoy some aspects of their jobs. If you struggle to find something positive at work, you may be dealing with a toxic work environment, and changing jobs can help your mood improve. 

However, if you used to enjoy your job and nothing significant recently changed, consider speaking with a therapist, friend or trusted manager about ways to improve your resilience. 

How to build resilience in the workplace

Learning how to build resilience at work can help you enjoy your job and everyday life more. Practice the following to help you increase your workplace resilience:

Reframe challenges

Instead of seeing a problem as a harmful threat, reframe the situation into a positive learning experience. While the situation might not have many upsides, look for something positive, even if it’s just learning from the past, so you know what to do differently next time. 

Work on stress reduction

Having an outlet to relieve work pressure can be a great way to ensure you stay as resilient as possible. Whether stress reduction comes from exercise, playing with your kids or pets or speaking with a therapist or trusted friend (or all three), find an activity that helps you lower your stress level and maintain perspective.

Practice authentic self-care

While “self-care” has become a buzzword, focusing on the things that actually care for your physical and mental health—like getting enough sleep, eating well, drinking enough water and moving your body—can help you maintain resiliency. While practicing self-improvement in the workplace has its place, remember to take the time to focus on activities besides work so that you don’t burn out. 

Make connections

If you’re experiencing depression or burnout at work, you might feel isolated and like you’re the only one going through difficulties. Reach out to trusted friends at work or in your industry and brainstorm ways to improve or learn from a negative situation. 

Take action

Even if you’re a new employee or struggling to fit into your workplace culture, finding some action, even if it’s small, can help you feel empowered. Keep finding small actions to take over and over again, and you may eventually discover that you’ve solved a problem or finished a project without even realizing it.

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