Every country has dealt with COVID-19 in its own way, and the pandemic is far from over, but there are some clear lessons for the global business community. Foremost among them: the importance of mental resilience, both at the individual and the organizational level.
We know that severe global economic disruptions and shocks are going to continue, and no country will be immune. But even in the midst of constant change and uncertainty that’s going to define our future, it’s possible for companies not just to withstand the shocks, but to flourish and grow.
Right now, companies around the world are busy building and implementing new technologies to allow employees to collaborate remotely or share office space safely.
The tools range from agile shift management dashboards to tech-infused elevator protocols and vibrating social distancing apps. But without also giving people the tools to nurture their own well-being and mental resilience, new technologies, however impressive and necessary, will not be enough.
Even before the pandemic, the way we were living and working — fueled by stress and burnout — made it hard to access qualities like creativity, empathy and collaboration. The pandemic has simply accelerated the breakdown of a model that was already unsustainable. People can’t simply flip a switch and turn creativity and innovative thinking on. Our immediate emotional needs have to be met first. We can’t create and implement new solutions for the future if we’re struggling to simply get through the day. We can’t be empathetic, inclusive, open to new ideas and see alternative perspectives when we can’t see past the next hour.
True inspiration, needle-moving breakthroughs and deep, sustained focus can only happen when we’re in the calm eye of the hurricane — when we’re recharged and engaged, and not at the mercy of our survival instincts. That’s when the creative rather than reactive parts of our minds can come to the surface.
Mental resilience allows us to deal with change and disruption, and not go into fight-or-flight mode. And we know what the conditions that allow employees to nurture mental resilience look like. It’s when we’re not “on” 24/7; when we’re able to say goodbye to our workday so we can get adequate sleep; when we’re able to connect meaningfully with friends and family; when we don’t feel like we have to choose between being successful at work and happy at home; when we’re able to find moments to pause to think, explore, follow our passions or experience joy. That’s the human layer — it’s what allows us to be productive in all parts of our lives, and also make the most of the amazing technology available to us.
So what can companies do to prioritize the human factor? Here are four examples of tools and strategies Thrive has created in the past year to help companies build resilience, both for organizations as a whole and for their people, whether they’re working in the office or remotely:
Measure mental resilience and emotional well-being
To give people the support they need, we have to understand where they are and what they’re struggling with. We need to understand more than just operational data that businesses have traditionally measured. The mental resilience and emotional well-being of employees are the true leading indicators of business performance. That’s why at Thrive we’re building a Mental Resilience Dashboard to help companies measure and manage the factors that allow their employees to be their best selves.
Take a whole human approach to well-being
So much of the conversation around the return to the office focuses on physical safety. That’s obviously the first priority, but often left out of the discussion is our mental and emotional state as we step forward. At Thrive, we have four interconnected journeys that empower people to make this just as much of a priority: Recharge, including the importance of sleep and taking moments throughout the day to reset and prevent stress from becoming cumulative; Fuel, including nutrition, hydration and movement; Focus, helping us effectively prioritize, minimize distractions and set boundaries with technology; and Connect, all about improving our relationship with ourselves and with those who matter most, helping deepen our sense of belonging and interconnectedness with the world around us.
Create systems and technologies that allow people to course-correct in real time
Neuroscience shows that we can reduce stress in just 60 seconds. At Thrive, we’ve created Reset, which allows people to create a personalized guide that can help them tap into their sense of perspective, gratitude and calm during stressful moments. Reset comes pre-populated with a variety of images and sounds that we’ve chosen to help people return to center, or users can create their own.
Use the power of story
Stories are how we make sense of our world. It’s stories that truly move us — stories of people overcoming obstacles, building healthy habits, or just making small changes that over time will have a big impact. That’s why it’s so important to hear from others about their challenges and successes, and to put a spotlight on role models at every level of an organization who can inspire others. This understanding is at the heart of our work with Walmart. Powered by inspirational success stories from over 230,000 people, Walmart and Thrive created Thrive ZP, which connects people to a community where they can share their stories, support each other and celebrate success. I’m inspired every day by the stories people share — by making just one better choice and sticking to it, they’re changing their lives for the better and tapping into inner resources of strength and resilience they didn’t know they had.
We’re at one of those moments of deep discontinuity — when one system falls away and another takes its place. As we reopen and reenter, we need to reimagine and rebuild the relationship between employees and companies — and at the heart of that is helping employees rebuild their relationship with themselves. Companies are only as resilient as their people. That’s why creating the conditions for people to operate from a place of strength, calm, empathy and resilience should be on the list of every company’s plans for both the short term and the long term. Without also prioritizing the human factor, digital transformation and external productivity tools, no matter how sophisticated, will never be enough.