Hello to all! For those of you whom I’ve not had the pleasure of meeting, my name is Mike Deasey. I’m with the Recruiting team at Hollstadt Consulting as a relatively new addition starting in June 2020. I’m also a First Lieutenant in the Army Reserves, currently deployed to Kuwait in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
Before I left, the team and I discussed ways that I could stay in touch with everyone back home and share some of my thoughts and experiences that could be helpful for both employers and employees. So, to start off my initial blog post, I’d like to discuss the concept of resiliency.
2020 has been….well, it’s been a year. Pick your issue, because there have been plenty of them. Now, more than any other recent time is a great time to explore the concept of resiliency. For starters, what does resiliency mean? A quick search will tell you that resilience is “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness,” or “the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.” What I like the most about those definitions is that it acknowledges getting bent out of shape but being able to recover from that. In my opinion, one of the most important things an employer can do to produce a happy and effective workforce is to help develop a physically and mentally resilient workforce. And for those individuals, they can enjoy better physical health and a more positive outlook.
For starters, what does a physically and mentally resilient workforce mean? When I say physical resilience, I’m more referring to one’s overall state of health. Diet, exercise, overall stress, and overall physical wellness all factor in. I don’t think I need to lay out the benefits of being physically healthy, but among those that are relevant to work might be increased productivity, better mood, less stress, and more energy. Physical resilience doesn’t mean everyone in the office needs to be an Olympic level athlete but finding the right balance of activity and nutrition for that individual. As a 27-year-old man, I require different activity levels than a 50-year-old man, or a 35-year-old woman, or even another 27-year-old man. A key aspect of physical resilience is understanding oneself, and understanding the inputs (nutrition) and outputs (physical activity or exercise) specific to that person to keep them physically healthy. What is mental resilience? Mental resilience is as much as skill as it is a mindset. It’s understanding how to avoid thinking traps that can lead to negative mindsets, understanding areas where you might be particularly sensitive about a subject, and understanding how to foster a positive mindset in yourself, as well as how to encourage those around you.
The Army has a program they call the Master Resilience Training course, or MRT, designed to help leaders foster resiliency among their ranks. This course teaches different ways to communicate or think about problems to help foster positive mindsets and encourage thoughtful discussion and communication of an issue to help soldiers manage stress and create a more resilient force. The program was developed in collaboration with psychologists and professionals from UPenn’s Positive Psychology Center. There are a number of different skills the program teaches, but I want to highlight a few that I’ve found to be particularly effective and can easily be done from your office chair.
Hunt the Good Stuff
Hunting the Good Stuff is seeking out something good that happened to you that day, and reflecting on it. Why was it good? What does it mean for you? How can you enable more of that good thing? It doesn’t need to be something massive; it can even be something like “My sandwich today was particularly delicious,” or “That presentation this morning went off perfectly.” It’s focusing on the good things and searching them out as a way to re-orient your mind to positive things that have happened to you.
Whenever I get bad news, or I’m feeling some pressure and just need to reset, I start doing multiplication tables in my head. Mental Games can be anything that requires your full concentration and can take your mind off current issues and give you time to mentally reset. Are you a history buff? How many years was it between the death of Alexander the Great and the first telephone call? Sports fan? What was the lineup of the 1980 Miracle on Ice team, and what college did they come from? None of the above? How would you estimate the total number of barbers in New York City? These games don’t need to even make sense…they just need to be something that is both difficult and fun and will require your complete concentration for a few minutes at a time.
Lastly, find the right amount of physical activity for you, and incorporate that into your routine. On this deployment, I find myself trying to stick to a routine of lifting in the gym at my office 5 days a week, and running between 8-12 miles per week. Of course, there are times when I can’t stick to that program, but when that happens, I do as much as I can. My schedule is not realistic for everybody, nor is it even an appropriate amount of exercise from person to person. For some it will be too much, and others not enough (I’m looking at you, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). But I’ve found that it helps me to de-stress, keeps me feeling awake, alert, and alive. Even if it’s just taking a 30-minute walk during your lunch break or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Find what’s right for you and find ways to incorporate physical activity into your day.
Now, I’ve talked a bit about how you as an individual can build physical and mental resilience, but how can employers help promote physical and mental resilience in their workforce? Here are a few ways:
- The most important step is to create an environment where you as a leader encourage your team to find the right balances for them. Encourage physical activity among your team – something as simple as a total step challenge (each employee logs X number of steps), to a team 5k or 10k walk/run. Whatever it may be, find some way to promote physical activity.
- Have an open-door policy where team members can come to you with issues or work-related stressors they are encountering.
- Encourage team members to take their PTO when they need to (even if it means you have to schedule around them!).
- Create an environment where people don’t feel they have to come into the office when they are feeling ill. According to this article from CNBC, as many as 90% of Americans admit they have gone to work sick. Especially now, this can have big impact on your team. As a leader, find ways to promote a healthy office environment. Urge your team to not come into work sick and potentially get others sick. This might mean different scheduling, allowing the use of sick time, or even allowing the flexibility to work from home when possible.
The bottom-line…having a mentally and physically resilient workforce will pay dividends to both the employer and its workforce. As a leader, find ways you can foster that sort of mental and physical resiliency in your workforce and I can promise you will have a more productive, happier, and loyal team. As an individual, work to develop resiliency in yourself to help make the difficult times a little easier, and become happier and healthier overall.