The importance of workplace resilience: why should businesses care?

The world of work is ever-changing, and the COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense upheaval and catalysed new ways of working. We take a look at why resilience is so important to businesses - and how companies can help build resilient workforces.

The world in which we live and work is ever evolving. Over the last year, this has been thrown into particularly sharp focus as the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated change in our working lives; pre-pandemic, organisational and employee resilience were concepts many employers recognised, but might not have thought too deeply about. However, in March 2020, companies’ resilience planning was put to the test as COVID-19 led to national lockdowns, with swathes of employees moving to remote working.

Workplace resilience suddenly had renewed focus, and employers were forced to think about what workplace resilience and employee resilience might mean for their firm. We explore why workforce resilience is so important, and how companies should achieve it.

Why businesses need to focus on workplace resilience in 2021

As we emerge into new ways of working in 2021 and beyond – with the balance between remote- and office-working potentially changed forever for many people, and work-life balance becoming increasingly important – employers need to ensure they are able to both engage and retain their current employees, and attract new talent.

This might mean rethinking traditional workplace benefits and rewards. How can employers support the overall wellbeing of the workforce, particularly in a remote or hybrid working model, where physical distance between employees and the organisation can add an extra layer of challenge?
In order to foster not just physical but financial and emotional resilience in the workplace, employers must be able to meet the career, financial and health needs of a wide spectrum of employees. And their approach to nurturing talent needs to enable individuals and the organisation to realise their collective ambitions.

Achieving this demands an approach to employee wellbeing that focuses not just on providing wellbeing-related benefits and initiatives, but that creates a truly resilient workforce.

Research carried out by Aon for our Rising Resilient report found, though, that many organisations could do more to improve their overall workplace and employee resilience. We have been talking about health and wellbeing for some time, but this has not always been extended to its natural conclusion, to make the connection between wellbeing and building resilience in the workplace.

Wellbeing is often a misunderstood concept; while it is seen as important, it is also viewed as nebulous and difficult to connect to tangible business value. Not surprising, perhaps, when the Rising Resilient research found that only 30% of employees are resilient; wellbeing has not worked well enough for businesses to feel its value.

Yet wellbeing is one of the key drivers of resilience in a workplace. Employers need to move beyond thinking of health and wellbeing as a discretionary spend or nice-to-have, and instead as a vital building block for organisational resilience.

Building resilience in the workplace: key considerations

Strategic investment in your employees’ health and wellbeing makes businesses thrive, but in order to deliver, it must be meaningful. It needs to meet the requirements of a diverse workforce; the Rising Resilient report identifies 10 key factors of wellbeing that affect and influence workforces today.

The 10 factors of wellbeing that affect and influence workforce resilience today are:

  • Encouraging health-positive behaviours
  • Protecting physical health
  • Delivering clarity and purpose
  • Operating with compassion and engaging the community
  • Supporting mental health in the modern day
  • Fostering adaptable skills
  • Sharing responsibility and control
  • Developing financial security
  • Embracing inclusivity
  • Understanding and managing employee expectations

Increasing resilience in the workplace via the 10 factors

Workplace resilience demands that organisations deliver well-rounded wellbeing that tackles the physical, social, emotional, professional and financial needs of their workforce.
If we take just two of the factors – communications and leadership – as examples, we can see how they support resilience. For instance, communications gaps all too often mean that employees fail to understand, appreciate or make use of the health and wellbeing benefits on offer.


of employees believe their business offers no healthy living provision

Leadership is also a core element in building workplace resilience. Your leaders need to see resilience as a central tenet of a successful, sustainable business, and to lead by example in taking the steps needed to accelerate wellbeing into true resilience. They also need to understand employee expectations, devising and communicating programmes that deliver on them.

If we take just two of the factors – communications and leadership – as examples, we can see how they support resilience. For instance, communications gaps all too often mean that employees fail to understand, appreciate or make use of the health and wellbeing benefits on offer.

This does not mean, though, that responsibility for resilience is the preserve of your board and senior leadership. Indeed, employers want to take more responsibility for their own wellbeing, and this is more achievable in a resilient workforce.

The research found that 88% of resilient employees felt their employer enables them to take care of their personal needs, compared to 23% of non-resilient employees.

When it comes to resilience in the workplace, providing employee training on the links between wellbeing and resilience and the steps that need to be taken towards a more resilient workforce, will enable you to build a team of advocates who can champion the workplace resilience message.

Take the right steps towards increased workplace resilience

Forward-thinking businesses – those that have embraced the connection between health, wider wellbeing and resilience – are seeing real return on investment from their health and wellbeing initiatives. As a result, they are better able to retain talent, respond to change and create a happier, healthier and more productive workforce. Hopefully this article has given you a clearer idea of what workplace resilience is, the elements employers need to consider, and how to achieve resilience in your own organisation.
If you want a snapshot of your own organisation’s resilience, our short online self-assessment tool takes less than ten minutes to complete and will enable you to measure your organisation’s resilience against best practice, with bespoke tips for improvement.

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  • See how you fare against our resilience gauge
  • Understand your key areas for improvement, and how to make change happen
  • Discover how well-rounded your health and wellbeing approach is

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