A lot of teams go through rough patches. Whether the challenge is financial or structural, brought on by a recession or an environmental event, moments of duress apply mental and physical pressure that can take a heavy toll. Far more than the usual anxiety about work. According to the American Institute of Stress, 80% of people report feeling some level of stress related to their job, 34% say they have trouble sleeping because of it, and well over half report physical pain as a result. These numbers increase substantially in the face of uncertainty.
This moment we're all living through right now is especially unique and has resulted in unprecedented pressure and stress on teams.
It's in times of great challenge and change that the strength of a team shines through. It manifests in their ability to adapt to and weather these changes — their resiliency. And every change they successfully navigate, with the right learning processes, can make them more resilient going forward. Resilient teams are better teams not just because they help to ensure business continuity, but because they get better over time, and in turn contribute to making the whole organization better.
Why we sometimes get resilience wrong
Many people get the qualities that make us resilient wrong. Those that maneuver through the storm and achieve success are not operating on no sleep and little balance. They're not just pushing through the pain, ignoring their home lives, or throwing more hours at the problem. Instead, they trade in overwork, chaos, and anxiety for an expanded focus on the team's well-being and find better ways to complete the work that matters while avoiding burnout.
What are the hallmarks of these types of resilient teams? They stay focused through the chaos. They have self-control and are compassionate toward one another. And they're adaptable because they have people who know that there is more than one way to skin a cat. There's a scientific reason these characteristics make teams more resilient, and in turn, healthier when the going gets tough.
Resilience, in part, is about recovery. It's not about the absence of stress, but how you respond to it. Teams that endure can do work, completely step away from it, and come back recovered and ready to push forward. More rest, better conflict and time management, and ample mental health safeguards are hallmarks of teams that bounce back with greater ease.
So what does this look like in practice? Let's start by calling out what resilience is and is not.
Resilience IS NOT
- Working 15 hours a day, non-stop
- Thinking about work during downtime or before bed
- Staying up until 2 AM to fix a problem that "can't wait"
- Expecting everyone to keep long hours, despite other responsibilities in their lives
- Sticking with initial goals, no matter what
- Being able to check-in with yourself and your team
- Knowing how to manage your energy so you’re healthy and focused
- Thinking about how to get work done without extending the workday
- Setting a schedule that works on an individual level and following it
- Being empathetic to others and how they work
- Pivoting priorities and tactics to meet the moment
- Knowing what worked before might not necessarily work now
The cost of enduring
Self-control and awareness do much more for resilience than being "tough" and showing your mettle. The thing to remind ourselves of here is that when we feel tired or mentally drained, the answer is not to work for another few hours on a task that usually takes half the time.
Study after study has shown the harmful impact of sleep deprivation and mental exhaustion on productivity and focus. According to the Harvard Business Review, employees who forgo sleep or can't disconnect and recover cost their companies more than $62 billion in lost revenue a year. And in times of crisis, when our minds are more prone to spiral, we're way more vulnerable to these devastating effects.
Resilient teams are made up of mindful people
Resilience is being aware of how we're feeling and deciding how best to position ourselves to do a good job. Resilient people do this. Resilient teams do this. So if you find yourself in a bind slogging over a project that you've been working on for hours, but can't seem to dot your I's and cross your T's, step away. Coding that side panel or finishing up a marketing presentation can wait until you've had time to reset. The key here is being in the know with ourselves and in control of how we respond.
When crisis strikes, our response requires backup from within and without. We need support from friends, family, and yes, even work colleagues to stay calm and grounded. And providing it to others, especially team members, has a massive impact on the way we persist and win. The intention to help others fair better is what compassion is all about. It just happens to also improve the work of the whole team in return.
Another piece of the resilience puzzle is being open to shifts in your activities and strategies, not your mission. Being adaptable in times of uncertainty means changing things up, including [flattening hierarchies](https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/leading-through-covid-19/), trusting everyone to chip in, and opening up the discussion to include everyone from the very top of the company to the people working with your customers directly. Taking the day in and day out considerations from your entire team and using that to make decisions about the way you work is how to endure a crisis.
How to become a resilient team
Maybe you've noticed that your team already does one or all of these things. Or perhaps you've been doing the opposite — going all-in on the “how much pain can I endure” approach. If you're like most teams struggling right now, you've probably just been trying to push through it. Understandable. But there's a better, less costly way to work and be successful. To be resilient.
So, how do you go from the wrong kind of resilient to the right kind? The simple answer: by communicating openly and changing willingly to meet the moment given your situation.
One way to do this is to adopt new work strategies. Windowed work, for example, provides a great deal of fluidity and requires your team to stay on top of what others are doing and how they're feeling to achieve success. The philosophy is that aside from collaborating on specific projects, we don't need to connect in real time or be on the same schedule to get work done.
SaaS tools can help make this kind of work more feasible, and we've built Range as team success software to help teams with that. Our Check-ins tool can keep teams in sync even when they’re operating asynchronously, and our daily team question lets teams check in on a personal level so they know how everyone is feeling and share reactions with emojis. In this way, teams can use Range to strengthen the fabric of work. Even in times of crisis.
We hope this helps as you consider ways you can make your team be more resilient. We’re all involved in one of the steepest learning curves of our lives. As teams work through this together, we’ll be stronger for it and more ready to take on future challenges.