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When workplace stress is high, resilience is key

As businesses look for ways to support employees and help them be more effective, a new approach is gaining traction: resilience training. Defined as a combination of recovery, adaptability, and grit, resilience enables people to overcome stressful situations — emerging stronger and more capable. It’s a proactive, long-term strategy that helps employees cope with difficult situations while also supporting their mental health and overall well-being.

Why cultivating resilience at work matters

When you consider that people spend a third of their lives at work — and sometimes more hours at home checking emails and anticipating tomorrow’s tasks — it’s no wonder that work is cited as a main source of stress for Americans.1 Stressors can be individual, such as heavy workloads, or organizational, such as company restructuring.2 In small doses stress can keep the brain alert and create an uptick in performance.3 But when left unchecked over extended periods of time, stress can lead to serious health problems like anxiety, depression, heart disease, diabetes, and substance abuse.4 These conditions not only affect the individual employees, they can also drain business profits.

While it’s not possible to eliminate workplace stress altogether, investing in employee resilience pays off — and employees take notice. In fact, a whopping 94% say that having access to resilience training improved their loyalty and commitment to their current employer — which means lower turnover.5 And building a reputation as a workplace that values employee health can help companies boost their ability to attract top talent.

How resilience helps your employees: overcoming interpersonal challenges, dealing with difficult people, guarding against burnout and overload, remaining calm under pressure, improving communication skills, taking on new challenges
Consider this: Employers value resilience but don't always support it. 3 our of 4 board-level employers say resilience is essential to career success. 1 in 10 workers say their organization helps to foster resilience.
3 steps to resilience: 1) Educate leadership and managers to lead by example 2) Provide resilience training and resources 3) Reduce workplace stressors and harmful behaviors

How to build a resilient workforce

While employees have many ways to boost resilience on their own, many don’t know where to start, or that it’s a skill that can be learned, practiced, and refined. Employer-led resilience training can help fill that gap. There is no single methodology or framework for resilience training. Different programs use different theories of behavior change drawing from a range of disciplines — mostly psychology. Effective resilience training teaches employees the behaviors needed to address job challenges, deal with conflict, and manage emotions. From curriculum-based workshops and mentoring to educational materials and self-evaluations, there are many ways to empower a healthier workplace culture.

The benefits of resilience training

Studies show that participation in resilience training improves health outcomes for 3 out of 4 employees and increases the likelihood of adopting healthy behaviors.6 The American Heart Association found that employee resilience can lead to:7

  • Greater workplace happiness and job satisfaction
  • Better job ratings, performance reviews, and promotion potential
  • Reduced absenteeism

Making resilience a reality

When modeled by leaders, fostered by managers, and adopted by employees, resilience can help make teams stronger, healthier, and more productive. That puts businesses in a powerful position to build a workforce that can achieve strategic goals.

About our expert

Nicole Stelter

Nicole Stelter is Kaiser Permanente’s mental health customer engagement leader. She’s a consultant for occupational health, wellness, employee assistance program, and disability management services.

She has a doctorate in industrial/organizational psychology and a master’s degree in counseling psychology. She has more than 25 years of experience in workforce behavioral health and human capital strategies, including benefits programming, leadership behavior, and organizational culture.

From 2010 to 2015, Nicole was a reserve behavioral health officer in the California Army National Guard with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program for soldier and family resilience.

“7 in 10 employees say COVID-19 has made this the most stressful time of their career,” “New Data from Ginger Shows Nearly 70 Percent of Workers Feel More Stressed During COVID-19 Than at Any Other Point in Their Entire Professional Career,” Ginger press release, April 9, 2020.

  • 1

    Stress in America: Generation Z, American Psychological Association, October 2018,

  • 2

    Resilience in the Workplace: An Evidence Review and Implications for Practice, American Heart Association, 2017,

  • 3

    Tim Cannon, “Sorry, But Some Work-Related Stress Is Good for You,” Fast Company, October 12, 2016,

  • 4

    See note 2.

  • 5

    See note 2.

  • 6

    See note 2.

  • 7

    See note 2.