The Resilient Workplace

In a world where change is the only constant, companies’ ability to respond quickly and effectively to unpredictable events or forces no longer seems to be optional, but rather, imperative.  To achieve this, organisations must be both agile and highly resilient.

Resilient People

The ability to adopt a positive attitude geared towards problem-solving and to shift focus from failure in difficult situations are traits shared by resilient people.  Companies can help their employees be more resilient by encouraging the following six behaviour:

  1. Perceive experiences constructively: when faced with difficult situations, it's best to find the positive elements — to see change as an opportunity rather than a danger — and keep moving forward.  Resilience involves adopting responses which suit the needs of every situation, instead of resorting to inefficient behaviours, such as complaining, which work against the resolution of the problem and can be seen as negative coping strategies.
  2. Find additional resources: a resilient attitude demands an ability to find resources beyond the limitations of those regularly applied in the course of the work performed, such as counselling, specialised information, emotional support or other kinds of help.
  3. Feel empowered: empowerment is a key factor in building a resilient workforce, and it entails granting further participation in decision-making processes. This can foster better adaptive responses, together with the possibility of using the necessary resources to fulfil goals. 
  4. Be creative: being resilient in a crisis means being able to find solutions using the resources available. Thus creativity is a crucial component of resilience.
  5. Develop tolerance for uncertainty: developing the ability to make decisions with less information than would be desirable.
  6. Build support networks: having support networks, both within the workplace and out, is a major factor in developing resilience. Social networks can be a source of the kind of positive resources and emotions necessary to deal with adversity.

 

The Resilient Workplace

The traditional office models fail to offer efficient alternatives to face scenarios of uncertainty. Nowadays, it's essential to make the most of change.

Layout

Each worker can choose the environment best suited to the task, rather than working in a single place and being “chained” to a desk.

Flexible alternatives, such as "hoteling,” where space is no longer individual but can be shared with other workers, facilitate the increase of interpersonal relationships, the exchange of information and knowledge, and innovation. This allows for better collaboration both inside and outside the office and provides enough flexibility to mitigate the risk of catastrophic or disruptive incidents within the company.

Equipment

Layout changes will also influence equipment design. This component must be able to adapt (to be reconfigured, transported, and so on) to allow both individuals and groups to carry out their tasks according to the needs of any given moment. This way, planning also helps to minimize risks.

The furniture is flexible and interchangeable and shows variety, like a stage than can be easily reconfigured. Ergonomics and comfort are essential, with an emphasis on working surfaces, including blackboards for spontaneous collaboration.

Technology

Wireless mobile devices (laptops, smartphones, tablets, and so on) allow employees to access applications, documents and emails stored in the cloud from anywhere with an Internet connection and to work on them online (or offline, with the ability to synchronize them later.)

The cloud is a new paradigm which allows users to utilise the infrastructure set up by a provider through the web anytime and anywhere. This way, physical restrictions are eliminated and the operating environment is virtualised, an indispensable condition when work is being done from mobile devices with no storage capacity.

The same flexibility which improves the ability to work outside the office also increases resilience in facing adversity. Additionally, cloud service providers offer back-up systems which reduce the likelihood of information loss or lack of service in case of misfortune.

Management Strategies

In order to build a truly flexible organisation, individuals must be empowered to work where, how and when they want: work is not where they are, but what they do. To this end, companies will also have to change the way they measure productivity, from a system which counts the hours spent in the office to a goal-based management system.

Leadership

Executives are in charge of setting the course for the organisation by developing a business vision, and of aligning and inspiring people to both reach their goals and overcome obstacles.  Therefore, resilience begins when corporate leaders are able to establish priorities, assign resources and take on the required commitments to ensure the company's recovery from any contingency, clearly communicating their commitment to whatever measures and investments prove necessary for the creation of a highly mobile and distributed working style.

Corporate Culture

A resilient culture is built on principles such as organisational empowerment and a strong sense of purpose, trust and responsibility, as well as on employee networks which can organise themselves into communities and with the ability to participate in, manage and organise virtual teams. It is these empowered and interconnected employee networks which form the basis of a resilient organisational culture.

Communication

In order to face any measures required by a change in conditions (whether planned or disruptive), it becomes necessary to implement a well-directed internal communications plan, so as to benefit organisational cohesion and avoid issues of decreasing trust, responsibility or productivity.

A resilient workplace can only be successful if it trains and supports employees to work in new ways. When people are adequately selected, motivated, equipped and managed, they can overcome almost any obstacle or interruption. 

Conclusions

Resilience is a company’s ability to respond quickly and effectively to any type of unexpected changes. A resilient workplace is an ecosystem of spaces which have been designed to evolve and adapt to any contingency, optimising the use of physical assets and fostering employees’ active participation. 

In order to build a resilient company, one must keep in mind the elements that make an organisation truly flexible and adaptable: executives who are thoroughly prepared, effective leaders; a motivated and proactive workforce; a working culture and a set of values that uphold change; and a distributed environment which, in conjunction with a solid and collaborative technological infrastructure, can facilitate goals and function as an adequate support system to respond to any unexpected changes.  

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