Dr Derek Roger is a leading business psychologist and client, his groundbreaking Challenge of Change Resilience Training programme is validated, evidence based and used globally by 55,000+.
Races are run over a variety of distances, but if we were asked to name the shortest and the longest we’d likely say the 100-metre sprint and the marathon. In much the same way, predictions about the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic have ranged from it petering out by the end of the year to being with us permanently. Whatever the outcome, though, there won’t be a rapid end without an effective vaccine, which is some way off, so the world is in for a marathon rather than a sprint.
Sprinting demands a short but massive burst of energy. For corporates the energy was provided partly by the injection of government assistance like the furlough scheme, but just as it would be impossible to run at sprint speed for the full 26 miles this support is unsustainable, and is gradually being reduced. Marathons require sustained endurance, and firms will increasingly have to fall back on their own resources. This is in part about regaining financial health, but just as important are the reserves of personal resilience that staff can call upon.
How resilient are your people? Another way of phrasing the question is how well your staff are coping with the effects of the pandemic: have they adapted to uncertainty about their jobs, working from home, anxiety about contracting the virus? What compromises resilience – and in turn, productivity and job satisfaction – is stress, but we need to remind ourselves of what stress actually is.
Changing circumstances are the one constant in our lives, but stress is not inherent in any of them: stress is the way we respond to change, not the change itself. What change does is to increase pressure, but pressure is not stress, it’s just an increase in need or demand. This happens independently of crises like pandemics: when you wake up in the morning there is a need to get up and start work. If during your morning Zoom team meeting your boss wants to know why you haven’t finished the project you’re working on, the demand increases.
It will increase further if your colleagues all chime in to say they can’t get on with their part of the job until you’ve delivered, but none of this is stressful unless you ruminate about the emotional upset it causes. In other words, if you go on churning over what-ifs and if-onlys, like imagining you’re going to lose your job and your family will be on the streets. These are the worst things in his life that Mark Twain said actually never happened – they’re just ruminative thoughts. The simple fact is that stress is no more or less than ruminating about emotional upset: no rumination, no stress, just changes in demand.
The good news is that the resilience that results from not turning pressure into stress is a learnable skill, and the Challenge of Change Resilience Training provides four logical steps to do so. The crisis could of course incur tragedy, if someone close to you is infected and dies. You might then cross the threshold from daily demand to post-traumatic stress, where the choice is no longer available, but these kinds of situations are thankfully rare. For the demands we face on a day-to-day basis, the Challenge of Change programme provides a clear set of strategies that our research has shown to impact significantly on participants’ well-being.
You can find out more about the Resilience training programme here.