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Flat organizations, technology and constantly changing teams put more of the workforce on the frontline, closer to customers and accountable to the company’s business goals. That puts more employees in high demand and low control work environments not just those in the call center or the emergency room. Technology, automation, and collaborative tools have brought the pressures of high demand work environments to a large group of employees along with increasing loss of control over how they organize their work.

In the absence of resilience and a supportive culture, this combination of high demand and low control leads to what is known as a high strain work environment. These high strain work environments can be toxic and lead to negative productivity and well-being outcomes.

To better understand the dynamics of these increasingly high-pressured work environments we conducted a study to learn how workforce resilience, the ability to manage change and the stress it creates, could lead to better outcomes. 

What we found out:

#1 Resilience Is Fundamental to Workplace Productivity and Well-being

Being resilient, not surprisingly, has a strong protective effect in all work environments but the exciting finding was that the positive impact of better resilience was greater for those in high strain work environments against depression, stress related productivity loss and absence. 

#2 Co-workers and Resilience Keep Employees Productive and Coming to Work

Good relationships with co-workers, accessible managers and resilience are key to employee productivity and well-being at work. The social support an employee gets at work – meaning they feel routinely supported by co-workers and have access to managers to discuss issues – has a dynamic relationship with resilience. Social support and resilience interact to improve the ability to manage stress, improve job satisfaction and mitigate sleep troubles and burnout.

And resilience is especially important in work environments with low social support. Having higher resilience was especially protective against depression and lost productivity when faced with environments with low social support. 

#3 The Danger Zone = Low Resilience/Low Social Support/High Strain Work

A combination of high demand/low control and low social support and low resilience leads to the worst outcomes. Those with low resilience and low social support – interactions with co-workers and access to managers – have 2x the productivity loss and 2x the depression risk as those with high resilience and high social support. 

What does this all mean:

Employees equipped with high resilience, and who feel supported by co-workers and managers, are more able to be productive than those low in resilience in even the toughest work environments.  The good news is that resilience can be learned.