How can employers help to boost the mental, physical and financial resilience of their teams?

How can employers help to boost the mental, physical and financial resilience of their teams?
  • Financial wellbeing
  • 3 minute read

Resilience means having the capacity to recover quickly from setbacks. It was of growing interest to employers even before the pandemic struck due to the strong link between resilience and success at work. Conversely, a lack of resilience is thought to impair workplace performance.

The mental, physical and financial challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic have further underlined the importance of resilience, in the context of both the workplace and people’s personal lives. That’s because resilience is crucial to helping us withstand the challenges we face on a daily basis.

While some people seem to be naturally better than others at bouncing back from adversity, everyone has the capability to boost their own resilience. So how can employers support their employees with this?

Mental resilience

Mental resilience is the ability to psychologically cope with a crisis and handle emotions such as anger and grief. Stress is one of the greatest threats to mental resilience and the pandemic has certainly increased the levels of stress felt by employees. A global study by technology company Oracle and HR advisory firm Workplace Intelligence found last year to be the most stressful year on record, with 70% of people saying they had experienced more stress and anxiety at work compared with any other year.

As well as the additional pressures posed by the pandemic – such as a lack of work-life balance and loneliness – employees were wrestling with everyday stressors including pressure to meet performance standards, handling routine tasks and juggling unmanageable workloads. These pressures have continued into 2021, with many employees still working from home and making use of technological tools to collaborate and communicate, leaving them feeling ‘always on’.

Employers can help to promote mental resilience by setting clear expectations around when they expect their people to be available (i.e. not evenings and weekends) and by encouraging employees to take their annual leave and not feel obliged to answer emails during this vital downtime. They can also ensure that employees get the opportunity to take breaks between conference calls and are allowed uninterrupted ‘quiet’ time when they can focus on concentrated work. Some organisations even have dedicated days when no videoconferencing calls are allowed.

Another way that employers can build up mental resilience in the workplace is by training up mental health aiders. These are people who can look out for signs that employees might be struggling with mental health issues and then support those employees to seek appropriate help.

Physical resilience

Physical resilience refers to the body’s ability to maintain stamina and strength, and deal with physical challenges, such as recovering from injury or illness. Employees are more likely to enjoy physical resilience if they eat healthily, exercise regularly, drink plenty of water, get a good amount of sleep, don’t smoke, and consume moderate amounts of alcohol and caffeine, or even none at all.

In reality, few employees live a completely healthy existence. Meanwhile, obesity – which is associated with a number of serious health issues – has intensified as a problem over the past few decades. The problem has been further fuelled by people eating more during the pandemic – often for anxiety-related reasons – while levels of physical activity have declined.

Employees can be wary of employers trying to interfere with their lifestyle choices. Nevertheless, 2019 research by advisory firm Willis Towers Watson found that almost one in three workers see their employers as having a moral responsibility to help them lead a fit and healthy lifestyle. Employers who want to help boost the physical resilience of their employees can start by monitoring working hours to ensure that employees are getting sufficient breaks away from their desks – breaks they can use to walk and enjoy nature. Additionally, they should not be working on their computers till late at night, which could disturb their sleeping patterns and lead to them increasing their caffeine intake.

Employers can also boost physical resilience through other initiatives such as cycle-to-work schemes, fitness challenges, in-house gyms, vegan challenges and yoga classes. They can keep fruit in the office, offer on-site flu vaccinations and provide private health insurance as part of their overall benefits package. A simple, but effective way of promoting physical resilience is by encouraging sick employees to stay at home rather come into the workplace, where they might spread their germs around.

Financial resilience

Financial resilience is defined as “the ability to cope financially when faced with a sudden fall in income or unavoidable rise in expenditure”. Typical income shocks include ill health, job loss, a relationship breakdown or an unexpected rise in household bills.

Research by Close Brothers Asset Management has highlighted that a lack of financial resilience is an issue for many employees. One in five (19%) employees surveyed for the research admitted to feeling financially unprepared for the pandemic, with women more likely to feel unprepared than men and younger workers feeling less prepared than older workers. Older age groups have still felt the impact of the pandemic on their finances, however, with 14% of those aged between 55 and 64 delaying their retirement as a result of it.

Employers can help to boost their employees’ financial resilience by giving them valuable employment benefits such as sick pay, pensions, private health insurance and financial wellbeing. They can also educate employees on steps they can take personally to strengthen their ability to withstand an income shock. These include having sufficient savings to cover between three and six months of annual spending and paying off debt.

Income protection products – such as critical illness protection and income protection – can be another good way for employees to boost their financial resilience. Yet the research by Close Brothers Asset Management found that only 6% of UK employees have income protection products, even though one million employees each year find themselves unable to work due to serious illness or injury.

Benefits of resilience

It is not just down to employers to drive mental, physical and financial resilience. Employees should also take some important actions themselves. Still, employers can be proactive about educating employees on the considerable personal benefits that resilience brings. These include the potential to live a happier, healthier and longer life, have more financial security, and enjoy greater success at work. Now, who wouldn’t want all of that?

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