“I don’t do stress” is a very 1980’s statement and does not stand up to scientific analysis any more than Gordon Gekko’s “Lunch is for wimps”.

Stress is something that we will all feel from time to time.  Many successful business and sports professionals feel stress or even anxiety at some point during their careers, with fear of failure being one of the biggest contributing factors.  A recent study by Towers Watson found that one in three workers in the UK is in danger of burnout.  This explains why stress has far overtaken acute illnesses as the main reason office employees take sick leave.  Is this really a surprise?  After all, we live in a fast-paced world and we all have many commitments.

But any high-pressure scenario has an impact on what happens inside our bodies and can therefore impact on our health, much like regularly skipping lunch. The body has a physical response to change: essentially a tension and contraction. This is nothing to do with thinking we thrive on challenges – repeating this internal, mechanical response can cause wear and tear and over sustained periods of time can lead to situations where we behave in a way that is not helpful or that can cause long term health issues.

The National Institution for Health and Clinical Excellence recommends Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for people suffering from stress and anxiety because it challenges negative beliefs and results in a more positive outlook. Ideally individuals find treatments or therapies that help them cope with the challenges in their lives – it can be anything: going for a run, having a massage or complementary therapies such as osteopathy.  Less positively it can be cigarettes, alcohol, gambling or narcotics – each fulfilling a similar role but bringing its own set of problems instead.

However, coping strategies are essentially reactive and don’t help to build the resilience to overcome difficulties as they happen and to tackle challenges with composure. And they don’t help when the stress is actually taking place and influencing the physical and mental health of employees.

So how can personal resilience be applied in business?  Coaching key members of the management team, especially during change transition situations, can help them defuse their own stress and lead their team more effectively. Or coaching can be targeted at a particular area of the workforce so that they can learn how to be resilient day-to-day – this is particularly effective with teams in fast-paced functions who are responding to frequent and sudden changes in work flow, such as call centre workers or traders in the dealing room.  No doubt Gordon Gekko would have said that this is for wimps too, but let us consider a more enlightened view.  In a recent interview Amanda Rao, Northern Europe HR Director of TNS, identified the following results:

“The coaching helped in two ways: first as an intervention in an identified situation and secondly as a general raising of awareness of what stress really is.  In the first case I saw a direct relationship between the resilience coaching and the employee’s behaviour.  They can see things in perspective and, crucially, they are a valuable employee who is still with our company and able to make a significant contribution.  In the second case I perceived a better understanding of the topic and its impact for oneself and others. The duty of care is being taken seriously and we now explicitly include this in all our manager training.” 

The Towers Watson survey concluded that: “companies are running 21st century businesses with 20th century work practices.” 

Stress responses are like habits and learning how to practice resilience techniques allows you to retrain your body into establishing healthy habits and over-riding those that cause you problems. Atrium Synergies is committed to proactively building resilience as the key to achieving long-term sustainability and the potential long-term results are very exciting.