How empowering staff can help improve and sustain their mental health and recovery

The idea of resilience has taken on greater significance in recent times. Over the last two years, organisations have had to adapt rapidly to a host of challenges and continue to grapple with how they can remain profitable and resilient through current and future risks.

Nearly half of all working adults have reported feeling burned out because of increased levels of anxiety, coupled with the loss of control over their personal and professional lives [i],[ii].

The “Great Exhaustion” appears to be impacting working adults, and some more than others. For example, women have been harder hit because of other issues catalysed by the pandemic, such as caring responsibilities and increased exposure to domestic violence[i].

This shows the urgent need for holistic wellbeing solutions to address the psychosocial needs of people and societies sustainably.

While systemic and structural issues are challenges dealt with across policy and legislative landscapes, organisations also play a significant role in offering solutions to meet the mental health needs of their employees.  

The rising cost of poor mental health

Mental health-related workers’ compensation claims are steadily rising, comprising 9% of all claims lodged between 2020-2021.

Australia’s Productivity Commission estimated that poor mental health costs the national economy more than $200 billion a year. 

Further, primary psychological worker’s compensation claims have increased by 86% between 2000 and 2017 in Australia, with costs of claims rising exponentially during the same period by 209%.

The most common reasons for work-related mental health claims comprise work pressure, work-related harassment and bullying and workplace violence. 

But there is a shift. More organisations are beginning to listen and understand how better policy and mental health resources can minimise the risk of injury or negative impacts on their workers’ physical and psychological wellbeing.

The role of resilience in building healthy workplace environments

Workplace psychological interventions aid employees in developing coping skills to enhance recovery, improve motivation, and build their overall sense of wellbeing to recover from psychological injury[i]

Hence, resilience-building interventions can be integral to every stage of an organisation’s wellbeing journey.

A recent study found that over half of Australia’s workforce reported living well despite the struggles over the last two years[ii].

However, sustaining this degree of resilience is becoming challenging because of the difficulty in maintaining ongoing high levels of psychological safety and wellbeing motivation.

Given these findings, interventions that focus on developing employees’ resilience are relevant and critical not only to high-risk occupational groups, such as frontline law enforcement and healthcare workers. But all individuals experiencing poor mental health[iii].

In addition to individual traits, skills, and abilities, workplace “resilience levers” such as supportive workplace policies and supportive relationships with colleagues and supervisors are crucial to promoting wellbeing.

Research indicates that higher levels of resilience shown by leaders transfer to other employees and play a role in alleviating burnout and improving the psychosocial climate within organisations. 

Thus, when used within an integrated approach to address organisational, interpersonal, and individual challenges within the workplace, resilience-building interventions can facilitate psychological growth, flexibility, and help individuals to thrive in the face of hardship. 

Research[i]  describes resilience as a function of the following:

  1. Competence – Developing proficient skills and the ability to handle stressful situations effectively. 
  2. Confidence – Fostering unwavering belief in one’s capacity to navigate challenging situations satisfactorily.
  3. Character – Moral fortitude is a cumulative of attributes, such as tenacity, perseverance, and the ability to self-reflect and learn from challenges.
  4. Connection – Strengthening resilience through meaningful connection with at least one other person to whom one is accountable and whose unconditional support is reliable. 
  5. Contribution – Making meaningful contributions to the societies people live and work in can bring personal reward, affirmation, and a sense of adding value.
  6. Coping – Adopting positive coping strategies may help avoid unsafe or unhealthy behaviours and moderate the negative impacts of long-term toxic stress.
  7. Control – Control is the capacity to exert healthy control over one’s environment or find levers via which purpose and independence can be grown, irrespective of challenges.

Download our The Case for Resilience’ whitepaper and help empower and transform your workforce.

[i]   Stanley, B. L., Zanin, A. C., Avalos, B. L., Tracy, S. J., & Town, S. (2021). Collective Emotion During Collective Trauma: A Metaphor Analysis of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Qualitative Health Research, 31(10), 1890–1903.

[ii] McKinsey Quarterly. (2021). The great exhaustion.

[iii] Bettes, Kate. 2022). Are we seeing the Great Resignation – or the Great Exhaustion?—or-the-great-exhaustion–

[iv] Van Hees, S. G., Carlier, B. E., Vossen, E., Blonk, R. W., & Oomens, S. (2022). Towards a better understanding of work participation among employees with common mental health problems: a systematic realist review. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, 48(3), 173-189. https://doi:10.5271/sjweh.4005

[v] McQuaid, M. (2020). Wellbeing Lab Workplace Survey 2020. Accessed:

[vi] Vanhove, A. J., Herian, M. N., Perez, A. L., Harms, P. D., & Lester, P. B. (2016). Can resilience be developed at work? A meta‐analytic review of resilience‐building programme effectiveness. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 89(2), 278-307.

[vii] Barger, J., Vitale, P., Gaughan, J. P., & Feldman-Winter, L. (2017). Measuring resilience in the adolescent population: a succinct tool for outpatient adolescent health. The Journal of pediatrics, 189, 201-206.