There is no doubt of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on mental health. Crisis hotlines have seen call volumes increase by 40%-60%. Similarly, work from home requirements have caused an organizational mental health crisis for many companies. To survive and gauge the long-range implications of this societal challenge, organizations must pay attention to those things that build resilience. Some sources recommend building personal resilience to strengthen organizational resilience by encouraging employees to get enough rest, eat healthy, and exercise.
What is resilience exactly? Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; it is one’s ability to show strength and confidence in the face of uncertainty. For organizations, resilience depends on its leadership’s confidence and the ability to think, plan, and believe in a positive outcome.
Let’s break resilience down even further.
Confidence is earned by merit. Certainly, an organization loses confidence in itself when it is stressed financially. Nothing threatens the team’s confidence as much as the inability to make payroll, pay vendors and subcontractors, and cut essential benefits to the bone. Financial stress is one of the impacts some organizations may be feeling because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Complementary to confidence is leadership’s ability to think clearly and not panic the team. The phrase “unchartered territory” has probably been used more in the first half of 2020 than by Christopher Columbus’ crew when they discovered America in 1492. Questions plague us: What do we do now? When will we get back to something resembling normalcy? It is in this space of unchartered territory where frequent and clear communication is so important. In times of stress, employees are looking for reassurance and confidence in their leadership.
The best way to demonstrate clear thinking is through frequent, open, and honest communication with all employees. And so, it was on the first workday of 2019 that I started a Monday morning email to all employees called Monday Morning Coffee (MMC).
In most cases, it is the first email employees see when they log on to start the week. Usually kept to three paragraphs, it announces new employees, brings to light current issues, and notes upcoming events. Little did I know that these emails I write every Sunday night would become an important tool for discussing where we are in the COVID crisis and what we are doing to navigate this unchartered territory.
It feels reassuring to know that in the face of a crisis, all our employees receive a little weekly message from Austin’s President that helps them understand where Austin is overall. This type of consistency breeds confidence. Confidence breeds resilience.
And yet, believing in what we do and accomplish as a team to design and build the future might be the most significant factor contributing to resilience. Belief is a flame that is carried individually but burns the brightest in the collective.
At its core, it is knowing we will be okay, that we will get through this as a team, and that we can do whatever is necessary to move beyond today. Belief in our work, in the importance of what we do, what the company does, its vision and our purpose all support resilience.
Austin has weathered two World Wars, multiple plagues, a Great Depression, recessions, leadership changes, and the rapid evolution in technologies shaping our industry and society. Looking back at Austin’s history, I believe there is an inherent expectation of resilience from each of our employees, which becomes self-fulfilling for the organization overall. Over 140 years in business is proof of this resilience.
We have built legacies and developed traditions that feed our resilience. These create Austin’s strong foundation and reinforce the purpose of our work. We continue to draw upon our legacies and traditions to continue to be part of the solution during each of these global upheavals, whether they be wars or pandemics. It is comforting to remember that our client base has similar legacies. We are not alone in this.
Today, as we navigate the unchartered territory of COVID 19, we stand on the shoulders of giants who weathered the Spanish Flu, multiple recessions, a great depression, two World Wars, and came out stronger. In doing so, we are creating our legacies and traditions.
New strengths emerge because of our core values and our ongoing confidence that our work is unique, impactful, and has great purpose.
Austin is resilient.
“In order to succeed, people need a sense of self-efficacy, to struggle together with resilience to meet the inevitable obstacles and inequities of life.” —Albert Bandura
“Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the cdhance to work through difficult problems.” —Gever Tulley
“Resilience is all about being able to overcome the unexpected. Sustainability is about survival. The goal of resilience is to thrive.”—Jamais Cascio