Blog Details

How to be Resilient in Times like COVID-19

Blog |

In the past month, there have been more than a few around me who have expressed that they wouldn’t in their wildest imagination have expected to live in extraordinary times like these.  But the truth is, while the nature of the events might change, history has taught us that disaster and crises occur far more frequently now than ever.

Few of us are in a position to change the environment in which we operate; we can only control how we prepare for it and respond to it.  Resilience has moved from being highly desirable to extremely crucial for organizations. In fact, resilience and agility are the only two factors that will make it easier for businesses to survive the inevitable downturn that is staring us in our faces.

Resilient organizations begin with resilient teams that are made of resilient individuals. While it is easier to judge resilience as a characteristic in individuals, it becomes a daunting task to make groups of people resilient, especially when motivations are down and people are working remotely.

Business plans and strategies go out of the window in extraordinary times. Domain-specific knowledge and well-defined job roles don’t matter in uncertain times. What matters is people who are determined to power through, skillsets that are fluid and determination that is unshaken in the face of adversity.

According to the Dale Carnegie Whitepaper on Resilience, people generally react in four ways in response to adversity.

1. Low distress with minimal impact on functionality (Resilient)

2. Initially, high distress followed by reduced levels of distress, or distress that initially increases and then decreases over time (Recovered)

3. Moderate initial distress that increases over time (Delayed)

4. Initial distress that does not decrease significantly over time (Chronic)

It’s clear that the fate of an organization facing adversity can be profoundly affected by the trajectories its employees follow. How then can organizations minimize the impact of delayed and chronic responses to adversity and emerge unscathed through devastating times? The easy and hard answer to that is by building resilience.

Resiliency is a deep-rooted attribute that trickles down to employees through the senior leaders and culture of the organization.

In uncertain, unforeseen events like the COVID-19 outbreak, how does resilience in an organization look like?

  • Resilient organizations display a focussed sense of urgency in responding to new developments and start preparing for worse case scenarios by pivoting to new products, making hard decisions and implementing them swiftly
  • Agile leaders keep their minds open for any and all possibilities and understand that some of them might not work as expected
  • Resilient organizations have empowered employees who display leadership in their roles despite their seniority
  • Strong businesses do not waste time on activities that can’t be measured in times of uncertainty. They play on their areas of strength and are quick to learn new tricks to retain the cash flows

Similarly, individuals with High Resilience demonstrate a unique combination of attitudes and behaviours:

  1. They maintain a positive attitude
  2. They are confident in their skills and abilities
  3. They cope well with challenges
  4. They recover quickly from crisis at work
  5. They absorb lessons from adversity that they use to grow and improve future performance

The Dale Carnegie study confirmed a number of those positive outcomes of resilience at work. Highly resilient employees are: 

• More than twice as willing to consistently give their best efforts at work

• Significantly more likely to feel relatively free of serious stress at work, reporting that they rarely or never felt stress

Interestingly, the Dale Carnegie survey found that age or type of employment had little effect on the resilience of individuals. This means that irrespective of an employee’s age or status (freelance/full time), they can display the much-needed attributes required to be resilient. Which begs the question, what is it that influences resilience in individuals and more importantly, organizations?

Researchers suggest that, rather than being an innate trait that people have or don’t have, resilience is the result of a process that combines individual traits, attitudes and behaviors together with work-related environmental factors, many of which can be developed or modified to strengthen resilience in individuals, teams and the entire organization.

In turbulent times that are unprecedented and disruptive, there are a few sure ways that leaders can use to build resilience in the workforce.

  1. Be socially intelligent and manage expectations accordingly: Times like the COVID-19 pandemic are extraordinary in nature and bring with them great emotional stress. Now more than ever, leaders must display social intelligence by being there for the team and saying the right things when they matter the most. Leaders must manage their expectations from the employees and refrain from stressing them with unachievable deadlines and deliverables.
  2. Work on Relationships: Of the respondents in the Dale Carnegie study who consistently felt all three emotions (connected, valued and empowered) 77% were highly resilient, nearly double the rate of high resilience (41%) among all others. Leaders must make time to show sincere appreciation, build trusting, transparent relationships with their employees even when they may be working virtually
  3. Reinforce the Organizational Purpose: A shared organizational purpose can be the binding force even when employees work from remote worksites. A purpose provides a valuable sense of orientation and meaning, especially in times of adversity. This is reiterated in the findings of the survey; Of those who couldn’t strongly agree  that they have a sense of purpose at work, only one third manage to be highly resilient
  4. Provide Adequate Resources: Many employees are struggling with a lack of resources when their work environment changes almost overnight. In fact, there were a substantial number in the Dale Carnegie survey (about 3 in 10) who acknowledged a problem in this area by responding in a neutral or negative way regarding resources. Of those, only 27% were highly resilient.
  5. Foster a Learning Culture: Employees who routinely share knowledge and information are shown to be highly resilient (78%) compared to others.  Learning keeps the organization agile and ensures that employees have the skillsets required to pivot to new products and roles.

The path to resilience is never a straightforward one. There are contrasting elements and tough decisions that have to be made by leaders that might hamper the short-term efforts of building a resilient workforce. But in order for organizations to survive stormy times like these, the foundation has to be strong and worked upon relentlessly. Because someone said it rightly, you are nothing if not resilient.