Resilience has gotten a lot of attention during the coronavirus pandemic — and with good reason. COVID-19 caused the entire world to change the way it works and required each of us to adjust to a new reality in our personal lives. But what does the word resilience actually mean? What specifically has caused it to move into the spotlight? And how does it apply to your workforce and the benefits you offer them today

In short, resilience means one of two things. It can be the capability of something to recover its size and shape after being so strained or undergoing such compressive stress that it becomes deformed. Resilience is also the ability to recover from, or adjust easily to, misfortune or change. It’s no exaggeration to say the pandemic brought to the spotlight the need for resilience as part of employee wellbeing. Stress over the last year has:

  • Incredibly strained the body that is the global workforce (more so for some employee groups, like working moms, than for others)
  • Brought misfortune — or at least unanticipated and significant change — to you, your employees, and your business

Are your people and your company on a path to recover their “size and shape” after being strained by the “compressive stress” of the pandemic? Are they showing the ability to “adjust easily” to the misfortunes and changes they’ve had to face? That would be resilience in response to what has arguably been the greatest stress on the global workforce in our lifetime.

True, it’s not news that stress can have a hugely negative impact on work. Two occupational psychologists first quantified the effects of a stressful workplace in 1978 and introduced the term “burnout.” Research since at least 2015 has proved that workplace stress affects personal and professional performance and is correlated with high levels of depression, anxiety, and burnout. 

On the other hand, the powers and positive impacts of resilience are well documented. An article from Workplace Mental Health succinctly sums up the positive outcomes of resilience this way:

  1. Greater job satisfaction, work happiness, organizational commitment, and employee engagement
  2. Improved self-esteem, sense of control over life events, sense of purpose in life, and employee interpersonal relationships

The exciting thing about resilience is that it is a skill. Like any skill, with practice, resilience can be learned. 

So, what’s all of that mean for employers right now? We argue it means that employers that want to keep hiring top performers and driving employee retention will be sure that their wellbeing initiatives have the programs and tools to help build employee resilience, and are accessible to their entire workforce. What does that look like?

For starters, it includes being sure your total wellness platform goes beyond tools and knowledge for stress management — which is, of course, key to resilience and a common piece of employee wellness programs. Building a resilient workforce also requires a focus on mitigating other factors that make employees less able to adapt or change. Examples include support for physical fitness, as well as mental and emotional health.

A survey from Ginger, the employee mental health platform, found, for example, that 81% of workers missed work during the pandemic because of symptoms that ranged from fatigue and anxiety to physical ailments. The online journal Positive Psychology has reported that employers will find it easier to build a more resilient workforce with a wellness platform that has programs and tools that help employees:

  • Build strong connections and relationships
  • Develop social support
  • Build trust
  • Develop a sense of grit — that fighting spirit that sets some employees apart

The good news is that employees are seeking to return to physical wellness as we come out of the pandemic. As we mentioned in our recent post, “Returning to the Workplace: So Much to Consider and Tips to Get It Right,” and according to a Gympass survey of 1,000 U.S. employees over age 18, the habit of physical exercise has taken hold and will continue. In addition, we found that people are comfortable and eager to return to the gym.

  • 89% say they will stay as active or be more active after they return to the office.
  • 64.6% are excited to return to the gym.

Gympass is the only complete corporate wellbeing platform that provides holistic support for every employee, no matter where they are and when they want it — the ideal solution for companies seeking to build a more resilient workforce.