Building post-pandemic team resilience

By building team resilience, talent leaders can help teams flourish amidst change and enable them to succeed in a post-pandemic world. Here are four actionable ways to boost team resilience.

The pandemic has brought more than a year of unprecedented hardship. And while the future is looking brighter with the global push for vaccinations, workers continue to struggle with mental health issues and resilience on a grand scale.

According to a recent Hardvard Business Review and YMCA WorkWell study by Jennifer Moss, nearly 90 percent of survey respondents felt their work lives were getting worse during the pandemic. More than 60 percent indicated they were experiencing burnout often or very often. These findings have huge implications for organizations in terms of employee health, engagement, performance and retention.

To address this growing issue, leaders must support the resilience of their people with renewed effort and strategies. While many resources exist to address individual resilience and self-care, little attention has focused on team and organizational resilience.

But giving people tools for improving well-being alone will not prevent burnout. Companies must address the root causes of burnout including unsustainable workloads, perceived lack of control and lack of a supportive community. These are issues best addressed at the team level.

Here are four actions leaders can take to boost the resilience of their teams.

Support mental and emotional health

While leaders have traditionally shied away from conversations about “feelings,” we now recognize discussing mental and emotional health is an essential part of building a positive, healthy workplace environment.

To build resilience, leaders should conduct periodic check-ins of mental and emotional health with their teams – both on an individual and collective basis. By asking a simple but direct question such as “How are you feeling?” or “How is your resilience right now?” leaders create a space for employees to discuss concerns and stressors that can lead to burnout. As you have this conversation, be sure to listen with empathy and conclude by asking “How can I support you?”

Team leaders must make mental health an ongoing topic of conversation to build stronger, more resilient teams.

Strengthen relationships and mutual support

Social connections are one of the most important building blocks of team resilience. When leaders invest in building team relationships, it strengthens the social bonds that enhance trust, collaboration and mutual support.

To strengthen team relationships, look for opportunities to socialize as a group and get to know each other better or incorporate structured team development exercises into your team’s regular meetings.  Beyond relationship building, encourage team members to openly discuss work challenges and how they can help each other resolve them. When members take time to listen to each other, share ideas and offer guidance and support, it’s a key sign of a resilient team.

Promote reflection and collective learning

As the team confronts challenges and shifting business demands, they must become agile and adaptive learners. Highly resilient teams take time to regularly update their view of reality, explore new solutions and practice collective learning.

Leaders should look for opportunities to incorporate reflection practices into everyday work. The essence of reflection is asking simple, powerful questions that promote inquiry, dialogue and insight. Consider questions such as:

  • How well are we achieving our goals?
  • What challenges are we experiencing and how do we need to adapt?
  • What assumptions are we making that might need to be examined?
  • How can we improve how we work together as a team?

By making reflection an ongoing practice, teams improve their ability to respond to change with increased agility and effectiveness.

Foster a culture of creativity and joy

As organizational psychologist Adam Grant has written about in the New York Times, the pandemic has left many people in a state of languishing. Grant suggests finding time for creative flow experiences as one antidote.

Flow is a state of deep immersion in a meaningful task or an enjoyable experience that is renewing.  How can the leaders in your organization encourage creativity and flow within your teams? Start by helping the team carve out time and space for creative work and identify projects that members are passionate about. These should be projects that both excite people and contribute to the team’s current or future success.

Beyond creative work, look for ways to spark joy within your team. Research finds expressions of joy have a positive impact on team resilience and mental health.

As organizations prepare to bring their workers back to the office (often using a hybrid workforce approach), HR leaders should make building team resilience a top priority. With investment in the strategies above, you can help your teams flourish amidst change and enable them to succeed in a post-pandemic world.