Staff Resilience Toolkit

These pages aim to help you develop your personal resilience during the coronavirus pandemic, and as we return to on-campus working.

Mental Health and Wellbeing


The coronavirus pandemic has presented a challenge for many of us, to our mental health and wellbeing – and it's important to take active steps to look after ourselves. The information in these pages aim to support you build your personal resilience, to help you deal with the current and any future emotional strain.

What is resilience?

Resilience is how we adapt well to changes in our environment

It's the process of adapting well in the face of adversity or significant sources of stress. This includes significant life changes, serious health problems, or family/workplace stress. The coronavirus pandemic has brought about significant life changes and challenges for many people, bringing a unique mix of thoughts, strong emotions and uncertainty. Yet people generally adapt well over time to life-changing situations and stressful situations — in part thanks to resilience.

Being resilient doesn't mean that you won't experience difficulty or distress, nor is resilience a personality trait that only some people possess. On the contrary - resilience involves behaviours, thoughts and actions that we can all learn and develop.

Consider resilience in the context of someone's individual situation

It's important to consider someone's resilience in the context of their individual situation and vulnerabilities - including diagnosed mental health conditions, long-term disabilities/physical conditions, financial situation and relationship issues. Someone's resilience can also be affected by the bias, stereotyping, prejudice or discrimination of others.

As individuals and an organisation, we therefore need to avoid systems that degrade the wellbeing and resilience of marginalised people and groups; being inclusive and offering representation can help. There's further information about equality, diversity and inclusion at the university here.

Building Your Personal Resilience

Increasing your resilience takes time and focus. These four components —can help you learn from challenging experiences.

1. Building your connections

Prioritising relationships and connecting with supportive people - including those who may be experiencing something similar - can remind you that you're not alone. As well as fostering positive one-to-one relationships with your manager, team members and other colleagues, being involved in one of the university's staff networks  or more informal communities on Yammer may help to provide social support and a sense of purpose.

2. Looking after your health and wellbeing

Taking care of your physical and mental health and wellbeing plays a key role in building your resilience. Lifestyle factors such as eating well, getting enough sleep and keeping hydrated, as well as regular exercise can strengthen your body to adapt to stress and reduce the toll of anxiety or depression. The university's wellbeing hub has resources and guidance for staff and students.

3. Purpose and meaning

Reflecting on what motivates you, your values, drive and direction can also help when you face setbacks. Identifying and setting goals can give you a sense of meaning and will help move you towards the things you want to accomplish. The university's staff development hub outlines the training and development support on offer at the university.

4. Seeking support

Getting help when you need it is crucial in building resilience. It is better to seek support even when you may not know what you need, or feel things may not be quite right. This may include:

Take small steps to enhance resilience and performance

Small changes, or 'marginal gains', which accumulate over time make a difference and help enhance your resilience and performance.

Below are some ideas which could help you build your personal resilience and perform at your best.

1. Building supportive connections and fostering wellbeing

Checking in with other people and their wellbeing and acknowledging positives may help. For example:

  • Use Microsoft Teams to contact others to ask how they are, and to share how you're feeling.
  • Practice gratitude - including with other people.
  • Praise others and acknowledge successes.
  • Reminisce about shared experiences which will hopefully be possible again in the future.

2. Problem solving and decision making

Recently, we have all aimed to respond to complex and unique situations, solving issues quickly. To do this we have needed to focus our attention on the problem/issue in hand - whilst also being challenged to make decisions under pressure.

  • When experiencing multiple and concurrent challenges or issues, try to pay attention to how you are feeling.
  • Try and deal with one issue at a time, breaking down larger items into more manageable chunks.
  • Take short, regular breaks, and try not to solve a complex issue when tired.
  • Write down the issues and any ideas for their resolution, so they don't ruminate in your head. If possible, step away from the immediacy of the situation and let your thinking develop over time – this can help determine solutions. You may also find it helpful to discuss your approach to resolving the issue with a colleague, who can act as a 'sounding board'.
  • Try to face the biggest challenge at the time you feel most alert and calm. If you are worried about a decision, imagine your decision-making didn't lead to the desired outcome, and consider the possible points where this could have happened, so you can mitigate risks. Where possible, use Teams to message/chat with people as this often- requires less formality and provides time to find answers.
  • When trying to solve an issue, avoid writing long, complicated emails when a call on Microsoft Teams, or a phone call, may be an easier way to walk this through with someone else.

3. Managing your workload

Try out these tips for managing your workload, helping you to perform at your best and in a way that is sustainable for your wellbeing:

  • Protect your 'deep work' time to accomplish high concentration/complex tasks. MyAnalytics could help give you valuable new insights into how to focus your time.
  • Identify your top three priorities so you can achieve these first, before moving on to the next three.  Try 'eating the frog' which means doing the thing you least want to do first, so that it's out of the way.
  • Commit to a task, write down how long it will take and consider using the 'Pomodoro technique' to help you – which suggests breaking down tasks into 25-minute intervals, taking regular short breaks.
  • Try Trello or similar apps to manage your projects – Trello uses Kanban principles such as making a work-plan in visual form.
  • Distinguish between urgent, important, and less pressing tasks and allocate your time accordingly
  • Remember to give yourself enough time to gather feedback from other people.

 As we continue to work remotely, we also need to understand the habits of recovery to make sure we build them into our working day. Although recovery may not feel like time well spent, we know the principles of diminishing returns will eventually lead us to putting in more hours of work, for less return. It is therefore essential to manage your energy through the day:

  • Review your achievements as a 'warm down' technique before a period of recovery, which should be guilt free.
  • Try to think of work as requiring a series of mini pit-stops so you can sustain your performance. Even ten minutes between meetings is helpful with enabling you to move from one focus to another. 

4. Leading, managing and developing teams remotely

Working and managing teams remotely, while also experiencing multiple changes themselves, has been the greatest test of many managers as they have implemented new operating models for their teams. Adopting the 'three Cs' approach could help you:

  • Clarity of communications.
    • Keep key messages simple, clear and frequent.
    • Reinforce messages in multiple / different ways your team.
    • Ensure that critical messages are explicit rather than implicit.
    • Consider using scenario planning to inform your team what could be the worst or best case.
    • Always relay what is known so your team know decisions have been considered from all perspectives and outcomes.
  • Enabling teams Control over new ways of working.
    • Try to balance structure and flexibility. This is extremely important as team members will need to maintain certain work patterns, but there will also be times where agility is crucial.
    • Try to consider where there can be reasonable give and flex if there has been an intense period of activity for your team.
  • High levels of Compassion.
    • Use 1-2-1s to find out how people are feeling, and to talk about people's motivations and goals.
    • Show your support, and encourage your team to be a personal support network for one another.

Use questions such as these to foster hope and solutions:

  • What new opportunities should we consider if they arise from this situation?
  • Which skills in our team are made for this situation?
  • How would you like things to be different in the future?
  • How can we start making steps towards...?
  • Where do you see growth after the current situation?
  • Looking back 12 months from now, what do you think we will be most proud of?

Generally, ask open questions - and ask "what" questions rather than "why" questions.

Compassionate leadership

During these uncertain times it is crucial that leaders and managers lead with compassion, ensuring they are communicating and checking the wellbeing of their staff.  Psychologists Pearn Kandola have recently carried out research on remote working during the coronavirus pandemic, highlighting the skills and personality traits that help people thrive whilst working remotely.  A link to the webinar outlining the research can be found here.   

The NHS have developed a compassionate leadership approach for their leaders to support staff during the pandemic.  Their approach is summarised here.

Digital wellbeing

Digital wellbeing is the impact technology and digital services have on people's mental, physical, social, and emotional health.  The coronavirus pandemic has added a further degree of complexity to an already complex area, including the challenge of remote working and the blurring of home and work boundaries.   

JISC have developed Digital Wellbeing information and briefing papers, focusing on both the positive and negative aspects of technology and digital services - and how you can improve your digital wellbeing. 

Positive actions to manage your own digital wellbeing include:

  • Accessing appropriate training and guidance for digital systems and tools relevant to your learning and role.
  • Taking time to explore and understand your own digital preferences and needs.
  • Considering the impact of digital activities on your own and others' health, for example by being conscious of what you read on social media.
  • Effectively managing your digital workload.
  • Making sure you know how to use digital equipment, tools, services and content safely.
  • Creating and managing a positive digital identity (professional and personal).
  • Ensuring that any services, content and systems that you provide or produce are accessible and inclusive.

If you want to explore your digital wellbeing and digital capabilities in more detail, the university has access to a JISC digital tool

 

MyAnalytics and your wellbeing

MyAnalytics is a tool provided with the university's Office 365 licence which gives you new insights into how to increase focus, achieve work-life balance, improve your work relationships and team collaboration. You can find out more about MyAnalytics here, and look at your dashboard via MyAnalytics at login.gre.ac.uk.

Only you have access to this information. Your privacy is important, the only way it can be shared is if you choose to forward the information to someone voluntarily. Further information about MyAnalytics and your privacy, including how to opt-out are available in the university's Office 365 FAQs.

Managing your online interactions

The following themes may support you to manage your online interactions when working remotely, whether these are meetings, messages, or even your online teaching.

Good practice around online meetings:

 

  • Consider the duration when planning online meetings – how long is needed? Do you, and your colleagues have a break between meetings? For example, rather than 60 minutes could you allow for a 50-minute meeting, allowing space for people to step away from the computer for 10 minutes between back-to-back meetings, or even slim down the meeting to just 15 or 30 minutes?
  • Make a determined effort to keep meetings to time – use agendas or meeting notes to focus the discussion.
  • Where a meeting runs over, consider reconvening if not everyone can continue the discussion.
  • Where lengthy online meetings or workshops are needed, timetable in breaks and let participants know that it's ok to step away from their computer at points or turn their camera off so that they can move around during the meeting.
  • Acknowledge that our use of platforms such as Microsoft Teams is developing, and that people have different levels of confidence and capability. Don't assume that everyone is as familiar with the technology and can see the chat, meeting notes, your screen for example. check this at the start of a meeting especially if you're meeting someone you haven't met online before. Importantly… be patient.
  • Agree with participants that it's good practice to turn on the camera when speaking, but also decide how important it is if people really don't want to do this.

Effective communication when working remotely:

  • Schedule and attend a regular meeting or discussion slot with your immediate team/ colleagues.
  • Explore if your colleagues want to have an informal part of each meeting - such as at the start – to check in an see how people are/ more information discussion. For example, this could be an optional 15 minutes before the formal start time of the meeting.
  • The boundaries between email, Office365 and Teams are more fluid; people are conversing/sharing information using multiple modes. If it's a priority that someone looks at that you are sharing – think carefully about the best ways of sharing and alerting people, e.g. tagging the name of an individual or team in a Microsoft Teams post or emailing directly.
  • Consider the best method of contact – would a more informal Microsoft Teams private message be more appropriate than an email? Would a telephone call enable you to work through an issue in a more straightforward way than an overly complicated email?
  • If making use of Microsoft Teams to communicate within a team, you may want to consider advocating a time-bound opportunity to drop in 2-3 times a day rather than dropping in more regularly which may interrupt or be disruptive to your work.
  • Remember the function to update your status on Microsoft Teams – this is aligned with your Outlook calendar. You can indicate when you're away or don't want to be disturbed.
  • Where possible, limit your screen time to give yourself a rest.
  • Ensure that you follow the Display Screen Equipment guidance to protect your health and wellbeing.

Resilience questionnaires and coaching

 

There are numerous questionnaires available that measure your levels of resilience.  Although our levels of resilience can vary greatly, everyone can maintain and even increase their resilience.  Many of the questionnaires reveal where your levels of resilience are high, and signpost you to activities you can do to increase your resilience. 

  • The i-resilience from Robertson Cooper is free to use- it gives you a personalised report and tells you which of the four key components (confidence, adaptability, purposefulness and the need for social support) you naturally draw on for resilience.  The report builds upon existing areas of strength and identifies any potential areas of risk.  The i-resilience portal then allows you to develop your resilience in line with the results of your report.
  • Here's a simple resilience questionnaire that identifies the dimensions in which you may need to develop your resilience.
  • If you are a manager, consider what you can do to assess the resilience risks in your team, and how the team may face challenges in the short and medium term.  This team resilience instrument draws on the work of Derek Mowbray, Cary Cooper and Ivan Robertson in defining and measuring individual and collective resilience, and may be useful during this uncertain time.

Coaching for resilience

If you would prefer a one to one discussion with an internal coach to help you understand resilience, how you operate under pressure, identify your 'derailers' and develop potential coping strategies, please contact coaching@gre.ac.uk.

Your coach will be able to use the BeTalent suite of resilience activities, including a free card- based exercise and/or a strengths-based resilience questionnaire. There is a small cost attached to the questionnaire at £40 per head.

Mindfulness for resilience

 

Practicing mindfulness can support good mental resilience, helping you to cope with pressure and reduce the impact that stress has on your life.

'Mindfulness' refers to the process of bringing more awareness to your life by increasing your awareness of the present moment - including your thoughts and feelings, body, and the world around you. This can positively change the way you feel about life, and how you approach challenges. Online resources include:

Further resources for your mental health and wellbeing are available here

Further resources

Further resources are available from psychologists and wellbeing specialists Robertson Cooper, which will help you understand and potentially increase your resilience:

  • Keep pressure positive: A resilience workbook to support you in building strength and resilience so you are as ready as you can be for the current and future emotional strain. This worksheet will help you if you want to influence the level of pressure you encounter.  When thinking about your wellbeing, although it is helpful to get support and input from others, you are the person who knows what makes you happy and healthy. As such, it is imperative for you to take the lead in generating ideas and solutions around what can be influenced to increase your psychological health.
  • Deep dive into your social health: This guide shares some key knowledge about one of the fundamental pillars of our wellbeing – our Social Health.  We have all been hugely disrupted in the way in which we are able to use this pillar of health as we work from home, being unable to see our family and friends, or communicate face-to-face with our colleagues.  This guide ensures you can be mindful of all the ways in which the pandemic may have impacted your social health, so you can start to take some action to stay well throughout this time, even with the limitations we all face in our social lives.
  • Take control of your workload: The changes that have occurred due to the worldwide pandemic have meant big shifts in the way we work and many of us are left with a feeling of uncertainty about the tasks we are doing.  This resource is designed to support you in regaining clarity of purpose over your changed work demands and reorganise your priorities.  Whether the demands you face at work have increased or decreased, this worksheet will allow you to reflect on what your work means to you right now, and therefore how you can continue to be happy and productive in your role.