Why We Need a Systemic Approach to Resilience

When we think of resilience, we often think about a person’s individual capacity to bounce back in the face of adversity, or their ability to cope with whatever life throws at them. What if I was to tell you that there is so much more to resilience, and lots of things we can do to improve our own resilience at work and that of our team?

The current workplace provides significant challenge to our equilibrium. It is fast paced, ever changing and impacted by external factors such as the global pandemic and the technology age. We are more likely to be working remotely, we are seeing less down time between projects, and we are maintaining a higher level of activity over sustained periods. I’m sure you have heard one of my personal favourites… “We need to do more with less”. How can we do this without losing our people along the way?

Before we look at it further, let me share with you to the definition that we use for resilience:

Personal Work Resilience is the capacity to manage the everyday stress of work while staying healthy, adapting and learning from setbacks and preparing for future challenges pro-actively. – Kathryn McEwan, Organisational Psychologist

As you will appreciate, the definition is systemic and comprehensive. One of the biggest mistakes we can make as employers, leaders or individuals is to place the responsibility of coping and managing stress on the individual alone. By telling our team members that they need to be more resilient without thinking about the bigger picture can lead to them feeling unsupported and disengaged.

So how can we support individuals and teams to build resilience and improve performance and productivity? It’s important to recognise that building resilience is so much more than self-care!

At Mentally Wellthy we recommend the R@W Toolkit which provides a systemic model of resilience in the work environment. The toolkit features three elements of resilience which can be measured at an individual, team and leader level. The leader scale assesses leader behaviours which influence the resilience of their teams.

The Individual, Team and Leader models for resilience (refer figure below) work together to improve team work, adaptability to change, engagement and wellbeing as well as sustained performance. Because this a model of resilience at work, the goal is to improve performance and productivity through increased resilience.

Resilience is a state not a trait, which means that we can influence it, particularly once we understand the levers at our disposal. The toolkit uses simple online surveys to assess current state of resilience in each component which provides a baseline for coaching and identifies areas of strength (that we can learn from) and areas of opportunity (that we can build on).

Results can be debriefed through individual or group coaching.

In future articles we will explore the models to provide you with a deeper understanding of each and discuss how the R@W Toolkit can systematically improve resilience in your business. In the meantime, you can visit our R@W page to learn more or to explore our individual or group coaching programmes.

Interested in getting a feel for the R@W first hand? Sign up here for one of our complimentary mini-workshops offered throughout the year.


Article written by Mentally Wellthy collaboration partner, Brigit Steindl. Brigit has an extensive background as a senior human resources professional, is an excellent leader and an accredited Resilience at Work Facilitator. Brigit specialises in coaching managers and supervisors in resilience or leadership skills.