vol. 31 Resilience at Work: Fostering a Future-Ready Workforce [Part 2]

Resilience at Work

The Solution: Resources for Resilience

Why resources? Workers invest their own resources: time and talent. They also expect their employers to provide additional resources for meeting their work responsibilities and goals. This idea matters because our assessment of the resources available to us impacts our decisions on how to respond to adverse conditions.

Resilience is the ability to “bounce back” from adverse conditions. How we perceive resources—our own, as well as hose available to us— impacts how we respond to such conditions

The Relationship Between Resources & Stress
The relationship between resources and stress is based on a person’s motivation to protect their current resources rom
loss and acquire new resources over time. Stress occurs in three specific situations:

  1. When resources are lost.
  2. When resources are threatened with loss.
  3. When there is a failure to gain resources after significant effort is invested. Lastly, there are also two key principles that apply to resource gain or loss. The first is that resource loss is more noticeable and important to people than resource gain. Therefore, bad memories tend to be more easily remembered than good ones. Second, people must invest resources to gain resources.

There is no scenario where resource gain occurs without some form of investment from other resources—time, energy, money, etc

Getting a promotion still requires investing time and energy into one’s work. Even scenarios where one gains considerable resources for little resource investment, there still must be some resource investment for the gains to occur. For example, winning the lottery requires spending money, a resource, to purchase the winning ticket. The ticket price, however, brings with it the loss of a resource (money), from which we may never see a resource gain. It is a risky situation that can bring on stress if we are investing more than we can afford to lose.

Resource Categorizations
With this understanding of conserving and amassing resources for managing stress, resources are defined as “those objects, personal characteristics, conditions, or energies that are valued by an individual, or serve as a means of attaining said objects, personal characteristics, or energies.”11 Resources vary in two ways: source and stability. Resources can originate internally from individuals themselves or externally within the contextual environment. They also can be more fluid, transient, and easily changed over time or more stable and durable, making them less easily changed over time. When mapped out, there are four basic resource categorizations: objects/conditions, social support, constructive resources, and energies.

Objects & Conditions
Objects are valued because of their physical nature, rarity, cost, or as a status symbol. Examples would include a private office as well as task-specific technology and tools. Conditions, such as relationships, employment, or broader societal structures, are valuable only as much as they are sought and valued by individuals or groups.13 Both objects and conditions are governed by larger economic and social factors.

Social Support
Social support resources come from others and provide or protect an individual’s other resources, but they can also harm an individual depending on the situation.14 Social support in the workplace can contribute to one’s overall social capital and reside in the benefits of social networks. These are influenced by team dynamics and alignment to organizational culture.

Constructive Resources
Constructive resources are internal and bring value because they assist in gaining, changing, protecting, or implementing other resources. They are typically personal traits inherent to a person, such as knowledge, general health, skills, and experiences.15 Key resources that govern the use of these include self-efficacy, personality traits, and social power.

Energies are internal and relatively fluid. Energies are not so much about their intrinsic value as resources, but rather their value in helping to acquire other resources. Examples of energies include time and money, information, cognitive and physical states, and even emotions.

Workplace Conditions: Threats, Losses or Gains to Resources?
It’s expected that an organization is responsible for providing external conditions that should be considered gains to its employees. Unfortunately, sometimes workplace conditions pose as threats to individual resources. For example, a
consistent complaint of open-plan offices has been a lack of speech privacy and poor noise management. During the pandemic, a clear threat to employees’ health has been air quality and proximity to others.

To begin, individuals with more resources are more well-positioned to protect themselves from resource loss.18 The opposite also is true. Individuals with fewer resources are less well-positioned to resist resource loss. Also, there are “resource caravans” where initial resource gain more easily leads to further resource gain, and initial resource loss leads to increased resource loss over time. For these reasons, a lack of resources or threats to an individual’s resources lead to defensive attempts to conserve any remaining resources. Addressing threats should, then, first focus on employees that may already be experiencing resource loss.

After addressing threats, the workplace—the environment, its policies, and its culture—all can serve as resource gains for employees.

We believe the workplace has the potential to mitigate or prevent stress from occurring for employees. Understanding what exactly constitutes “workplace resources” starts with understanding the working ecosystem.

Resource: Haworth

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