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Younger workers are lacking resilience: What can leaders do about it?

By Jack Campbell | |6 minute read

Workplace resilience is an employee’s ability to adapt and bounce back in the face of challenges, setbacks, and stressors in the work environment. When harnessed, this can be a powerful tool for maintaining a healthy and effective career.


Resilient employees can effectively navigate changes, uncertainties, and workplace challenges while continuing to perform at their best. Peta Sigley, Springfox’s co-founder and chief executive, said resilience is a staple in the modern workplace.

“Resilience is the cornerstone of individual and organisational wellbeing, especially in today’s dynamic and fast-paced work environments,” Ms Sigley said.

“Springfox’s 2023 Global Resilience Report revealed resilience in workers under 30 is dropping, with many coping but vulnerable. For younger workers navigating a rapidly evolving professional landscape, resilience is a crucial asset. It not only enhances their ability to cope with stress but also enables innovation, creativity, and an optimistic mindset.”

Ms Sigley noted that “resilient employees are a critical part of a robust and agile workforce”. With this in mind, organisations that work to build upon this critical component can, in turn, improve their own resilience.

“Leaders play a critical role in cultivating resilience within their teams – after all, organisational resilience starts at the C-suite. First and foremost, leaders need to prioritise psychological safety. Psychological safety is both a prerequisite for and by-product of resilience. In other words, the absence of one suggests the absence of the other. A psychologically safe workplace enables staff to operate with independence and feel comfortable voicing an idea or suggesting change without fear of failure. Resilience thrives in psychologically safe environments,” Ms Sigley explained.

“In addition to this, leaders need to ensure they’re encouraging and enabling positive work/life balance for all employees. Rather than simply offering lip service, it’s important for leaders to lead by example so that employees feel empowered to follow suit – whether it’s taking a lunch break away from your desk, leaving early to do the school pick-up, or simply turning off your work devices at 6pm. When we maintain a healthy, positive work/life balance, we enable ourselves to perform better and feel more present in both respective arenas.”

Implementing resilience training can be another beneficial approach to improving and maintaining employee resilience. Some other areas to assist in promoting healthy resilience, according to Ms Sigley, are:

  • Promote open communication: Encourage employees to share their concerns, challenges, and ideas without fear of judgement. Foster a culture of transparency where feedback is valued and addressed constructively.
  • Establish mentorship programs: Facilitate connections between experienced employees and younger colleagues to provide guidance and support. Encourage the exchange of experiences to promote learning from both successes and setbacks.
  • Promote work/life balance: Set manageable workloads and discourage excessive overtime. Support flexible working arrangements to accommodate personal commitments and responsibilities.
  • Recognise and celebrate achievements: Recognise and celebrate accomplishments regularly, whether they’re big or small. Acknowledge the importance of qualities like resilience, adaptability and perseverance and support staff to build on these.
  • Provide mental health resources: Offer access to counselling services or employee assistance programs (EAPs) for those who might be struggling. Educate employees about available mental health resources, and reduce the stigma around seeking support through open, honest communication and meaningful support of mental health causes.

It is not just the employer’s responsibility, however. Individuals should also work to boost resilience. According to Ms Sigley, this will “pay dividends in the long run”. She outlined five key areas to help build resilience:

  • Diet: What we eat has a significant impact on how we think, feel, and perform in our daily lives. Aim to consume a healthy, balanced and nutrient-rich diet. Avoid processed foods, foods high in sugar, and excessive amounts of alcohol. Limit caffeine and avoid caffeinated drinks after 2pm.
  • Sleep: We need between seven and nine hours of deep, restorative sleep each night in order to function at our best. Avoid using electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime, and lock in your wake-up time seven days a week to avoid effectively jet-lagging yourself.
  • Exercise: Countless studies have illustrated the positive impact of exercise on our physical and mental wellbeing. If you’re pressed for time or simply don’t have the energy, a 15-minute lap around the block each day will still offer benefits for both mind and body.
  • Mindfulness: Our mindset and thinking patterns have a direct impact on our resilience – after all, our thoughts create our reality. Integrate moments of mindfulness throughout the day to focus your mind on the present, and practice checking and reframing negative thoughts to avoid falling down a negative thought spiral.
  • Connection: One of the strongest drivers of resilience and mental wellbeing is connection with others. Whether it’s catching up for coffee or a meal on the weekend or chatting on the phone on your commute home, staying connected and maintaining positive relationships with friends and family is vital.
Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.