Building Emotional Resilience

Employers must build emotional resilience in employees to enable happy, productive workforces.



Watch a video of some of the speakers from the Debate.

Louise Aston, Wellbeing Director, BITC reports back from the BITC Workwell Debate: Building Emotional Resilience

We are working in increasingly tough times, with more people putting in longer and harder hours and more of us feeling insecure about our jobs and personal finances. Although absenteeism is declining, ‘presenteeism’ is on the rise with new research showing 93% of UK employees come into work despite being ill, resulting in low productivity and an unhealthy working environment.

As a greater number of us are taking on more responsibilities and pressures at work, how can businesses build the emotional resilience needed in employees to weather the storm? By embedding emotional resilience, in employees, businesses can not only help to create a happy workforce, but a productive one too.  

This week saw industry experts and business leaders gather at BITC’s Building Emotional Resilience debate to discuss the issue and share their insights. Here are some of their key pieces of advice.

  1. Start where your organisation is

One size does not fit all - identify where you can realistically start embedding resilience in your workforce. If you’re a mining company, for example, you might want to start with health and safety programmes as a way to bring in confidence around coping with stressful situations. If you’re an advertising agency you could develop creative wellbeing schemes to encourage self management of stress.

  1. Equip your line managers

Good, strong leadership is critical for the wellbeing of your employees. Often line managers are promoted for their technical expertise rather than their emotional intelligence. However tailored training for line managers which encourages regular, honest conversations with employees is key to them feeling supported and able to cope with work pressures. Workwell has developed an e-learning tool, endorsed by Mind, which is made up of six interactive modules designed to help employers improve the emotional wellbeing and resilience of their workforce.

  1. Language around mental health matters

With one in six workers currently suffering from mental health problems, which cost British employers 70 million working days a year, never has it been more important for employers to tackle this issue. The way employers speak about mental health in the workplace can either help or hinder the issue. The leadership message that ‘mental health is important’ is crucial at putting your employees at ease around the issue and more able to ask for help if needed.

  1. Take a temperature check of your organisation

To improve your employee resilience you need to first understand where your organisation currently stands and how effectively it is supporting your people and their health and wellbeing You can use one of many healthcheck tools that will do this for you, such as Time to Change. This is particularly important if your business is going through significant change which can be disruptive and unsettling for employees.

  1. Report on your employee health and wellbeing

Measuring your employee health and wellbeing is important to establish if you are doing better than last year, or if there is room for improvement.

Results of the BITC Workwell FTSE 100 benchmark on how our leading organisations are publically reporting employee engagement and wellbeing were published in April.  This marked a new chapter on measurement of people management and there were some highlights and exciting examples of leadership identified.  However, disappointingly but perhaps not surprisingly, they also showed the continued lack of transparency around psychological health data. 

Better Specialist Support, the Workwell area that includes the provision of mental health support and covers areas such as Employee Assistance Programmes, was the lowest scoring area in the benchmark.  With FTSE 100 companies responsible for 6.3 million employees and setting the stage for other business behaviours, we believe this is cause for concern. 

The time has come to turn psychological health on its head. Organisations need to openly recognise that every employee is potentially susceptible to mental health issues and build programmes to protect those who are currently well – estimated to be 97 percent of employees - rather than just dealing with those who are diagnosed as being unwell.  This is not a sign that their particular organisation is more stressful than others; it is recognition that life is stressful for everyone at different times and the employer has both a responsibility and business imperative to help their employees cope.

The debate was chaired by Stefan Stern, Director of Strategy, Edelman and Visiting Professor, Cass Business School, London

Panelists included:

• Paul Farmer, Chief Executive, Mind
• Dr Margaret Samuel, Chief Medical Officer, EDF Energy
• Tricia Kennerley Group Healthcare Public Affairs Director, Alliance Boots
• Niall de Lacy, Director, Human Resources, United Kingdom & Ireland, Procter & Gamble UK
• Professor Cary Cooper, CBE, Pro Vice Chancellor,Lancaster University

To find out more about the BITC Wellbeing campaign visit:

Download a copy of the BITC Workwell FTSE100 benchmark report.