5 actionable ways to be more resilient at work

Tough times are inevitable – it’s how we respond to them that’s harder to predict. Cultivating greater resilience in the face of adversity is the key to bouncing back after a setback at work.

Tough times are inevitable. It’s how we respond to them that’s harder to predict. Resilience is the magic ingredient: the ability to bounce back from a setback or failure and adjust our thinking accordingly. With The World Health Organisation describing stress as the “global health epidemic of the 21st century,” our resilience has never been more important.

Those who can learn to apply emotional resilience in the workplace will juggle demanding deadlines, manage workloads and foster a better relationship with work. The good news is, resilience can be cultivated. Here are some ways to take positive action and develop better thinking around failure.

Create support strategies

Learning to recognise stress, respond to change and improve your mindset during difficult periods will enable you to function better in times of adversity. Never underestimate the power of social support networks – whether that’s friends you can offload to, or an advice network in the form of a counsellor. If any of these networks are weak for you, consider how you can develop them further – whether that’s being more open with those you love or offering them more support to promote reciprocity. Likewise, while employees will benefit from developing coping strategies, employers can increase support by offering workplace health initiatives such as after-work yoga or healthy canteen options, to demonstrate an investment in these areas.

Promote mindfulness

Take time to think reflectively: writing down thoughts in a journal can help you to see negative thinking patterns and identify any biases you may hold, while the simple act of going for a walk can work wonders. Try to notice the world around you as you do so, to increase your connection to the world around you. Away from work, ensure you make time for activities or new hobbies which facilitate ‘flow states’ – when your brainwaves switch from beta to alpha because you are so absorbed in what you’re doing. Remember the colouring book obsession a few years ago? It all comes down to flow. Not all of us have the talent to switch off by drawing or playing a musical instrument, but everyone can spend an evening colouring in.

Take detachment breaks

In busy work periods, leaving our desks is often the first thing we neglect. However, time away from the office can facilitate far greater mental clarity than staring at your screen. Experts have found that, like sleep cycles, our productivity works in phases of 90-120 minutes; learning to identify these and then consciously detach for a few moments can help us plug back into the next task.


Try to avoid context switching: jumping haphazardly from one task to the next. Our brains can only effectively process 40 bits of information concurrently, so train yourself to focus on one task at a time and you’ll find that your focus and output increases. If you email notifications constantly disrupt your train of thought, consider muting them and having designated “checking” periods throughout the working day – if it’s truly urgent, colleagues will find another way to contact you.

Review working culture

Just as work is now encroaching on our home life, employers allowing staff to fulfil some personal responsibilities within work hours are taking the pressure off them – and reaping the rewards when it comes to employee satisfaction. If you find your workplace culture is impacting your work-life balance, raise concerns with your manager, or HR. If they do nothing, consider finding an organisation that truly does value your wellbeing.

Above all, remember that resilience is a marathon, not a sprint. It will not develop overnight, but the journey you take to cultivate it requires compassion. Try not to be too hard on yourself. Keep actively reflecting and adjusting your thoughts and behaviour patterns over time, and resilience will come.

When I left my corporate job before retraining as a coach, I was a bit of a mess emotionally. Loads of things happened there that I may have reacted badly to. Fast-forward to now, I feel like I’ve developed more resilience than ever. I’ve got a long way to go though. And you know what? So do you… and that’s perfectly OK.

By Christina Georgalla

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