Human Resource Management

HRM Guide UK HRM Guide USA HRM Guide World About HRM Guide Student HRM HR Updates Facebook
Search all of HRM Guide

Refuelling our teams: supporting resilience and reducing sickness

December 6 2023 - Resilience is often sought-after, or even expected, in the workplace says Paycare Chief Executive Anthony Burns. But are we asking too much of our employees to expect them to 'keep on pushing' with very little let-up from the pressures caused by years of increasing global and business-specific stresses?

The word resilience was used so much during the pandemic lockdowns, highlighting the way so many individuals continued to excel at their role despite the extraordinary circumstances. But we're now approaching the fourth anniversary of the onset of Coronavirus, and there's been very little let up for many sectors. While wellbeing has been a top priority for many businesses in that time, we're still sadly having to ask for continued resilience from our teams in light of the ongoing economic stresses in the world.

But resilience isn't limitless - no one expects an engine to run forever without topping it up with fuel and it's the same with our own energy and strength, no matter how much we all want to continue 'keeping calm and carrying on'.

And this is something we're seeing reflected in the most recent ONS data we have available on sickness leave in the UK. The percentage of working hours lost to illness in 2022 was 2.6%, an increase of 24% or 35.8million additional days off. The total number of days taken off sick was the highest on record, while the number per employee was not - which means there are more of us taking time off for minor illnesses which may require just a day or two of leave.

So, we have a situation where a great number of our staff are struggling with low reserves - potentially experiencing health issues which require time off work as a result. And we've also seen a shift in attitudes in recent years, where more people are looking for flexibility and other work-related wellness factors when seeking a job, or deciding whether to stay with the company they currently work for.

How can we as leaders support our staff to stay well (while also retaining them and rewarding them for their loyalty), without having access to a magic 'resilience' fuel or a boundless wellbeing budget?

First things first - just like on an aeroplane where you're advised to fit your own oxygen mask before helping others around you, you're not in a position to boost the resilience of your team if your own reserves are drained. Managers have been shouldering so many additional worries in recent years, so taking a step back to reflect on how you're feeling and how you can better 'fuel' yourself now and in the future puts you in a much better place to support your team going forward.

Then it's time to evaluate the measures you already have in place to promote resilience, health and wellbeing: which policies and practices are being utilised fully by the team, which could be highlighted more effectively to staff, and which don't necessarily serve them well and should be altered or swapped for something more impactful.

Naturally, not everyone is going to 'refuel' themselves in the same ways, so that's why having a range of options open to the team is beneficial. Ideas already in place, to great effect, among companies in the UK include:

  • Wellbeing days (in addition to annual leave allocation) which are designed to be used for anything the employee feels will benefit them, whether that's a spa day or snowboarding.
  • Holiday swap or buy schemes to enable staff to take more time off if it's needed during the year.
  • Access to preventative health and wellbeing services which enable them to seek support before their low resilience turns into burnout or other serious ailments.
  • Wellness sessions to promote increased activity levels, better nutrition and hydration, quality sleep, and all of the other lifestyle choices which can help boost resilience levels.
  • Promoting a good work/life balance, whether that's discouraging excessive prolonged levels of overtime, organising plenty of social events, or looking at flexible, hybrid or remote working options.

Above all, being open to talking about resilience is going to have a profound impact on the workplace - wellbeing has become a much bigger conversation topic in recent years, and the recognition of resilience levels must be a part of those chats to ensure employees feel they can be open if they need a little extra fuel (and feel confident in speaking up about how that might look). Talking about these issues before employees get to the point of needing time off because they're so drained can only be beneficial - for them, for you, and for the business a whole.

Anthony Burns is the Chief Executive of Paycare, an organisation which supports the health and happiness of the UK through a range of Health Cash Plans designed to ease financial pressure and promote a proactive approach to wellbeing, with options available for both individuals and organisations.

As a not-for-profit, Paycare has been investing into its communities since 1874 - meaning Policyholders are positively impacting themselves, their families, and wider society too. Visit to find out more.



HRM Guide makes minimal use of cookies, including some placed to facilitate features such as Google Search. By continuing to use the site you are agreeing to the use of cookies. Learn more here

HRM Guide Updates
Custom Search
  Contact  HRM Guide Privacy Policy
Copyright © 1997-2024 Alan Price and HRM Guide contributors. All rights reserved.