New Systematic Review of Resilience Training in the Workplace
You may well have undergone resilience training at work which could take many forms. But how do we know which interventions are effective? How do we know what works?
A new systematic review – reviewing the review literature – sets out to start and answer these questions.
Here, one of the authors of the review Mustafa Sarkar @mussarkar sets out the findings:
Resilience refers to the capacity of individuals to withstand – and even thrive on – the pressure and stress they experience in their lives (Fletcher & Sarkar, 2013) and resilience training programmes aim to equip individuals with resources and skills to prevent the potential negative effects of pressure and stress. The emphasis on building resilience in the workplace has been at least partially due to the period of global recession and subsequent austerity (Robertson & Cooper, 2013). People in the workplace have heavier workloads now and are working under enormous pressure as we enter the ‘getting more from less era’ (CIPD, 2009). The need for personal resilience in the workplace, therefore, has never been greater.
With a view to determining the effectiveness of resilience training in this context, we (Robertson, Cooper, Sarkar, & Curran, 2015) recently conducted a systematic review of work-based resilience training interventions. After applying rigorous criteria, 14 studies were considered robust enough to draw conclusions from. The 14 studies included programmes varying in length from single 90 minute sessions to workshops run over 12 weeks, and from online programmes to 2½ day retreats and group workshops supported with 1:1 coaching. Moreover, they included approaches based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), coaching-related principles, mindfulness- and compassion-based practices, and interestingly, two programmes used technology in the form of emWave biofeedback machines to help individuals self-manage their own stress.
In order to determine the effectiveness of these resilience training programmes, we evaluated their effects on various outcomes including personal resilience, mental health and wellbeing, physical health, psychosocial functioning, and performance.
The findings provided some indication that resilience training for employees may have beneficial effects with 12 out of the 14 studies showing positive and significant changes as a result of resilience training. This was especially the case for mental health and wellbeing outcomes such as stress, depression, anxiety, and negative mood/affect/emotion, which appeared particularly sensitive to resilience intervention. There was also an indication, across the studies, that personal resilience may be improved following resilience training (as would be expected) and it was also found that resilience training had a number of wider benefits that included enhanced psychosocial functioning (e.g., increased self-efficacy, work satisfaction, social skills) and improved performance (e.g., goal attainment, productivity, observed behavioural performance). However, due to the limited evidence (i.e., shortage of studies) and small sample sizes, it is worth noting that the results available permit only tentative conclusions. Similarly, the evidence is too limited to determine the most effective type of intervention. Indeed, at this stage, there is no definitive evidence for the most effective training content or format, but the results do suggest that it may be wise to include an element of one-to-one support based on individual needs in any resilience training programme.
In conclusion, this systematic review is the first step in identifying the impact of resilience training in the workplace and provides initial evidence of the impact of resilience training on personal resilience, mental health and wellbeing, and performance. However, more work-based studies in this area are required to better enable us to determine which particular aspects of resilience training are most effective.
Robertson, I., Cooper, C. L., Sarkar, M., & Curran, T. (2015). Resilience training in the workplace from 2003-2014: A systematic review. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 88, 533-562.
→ The World Economic Forum: Global Agenda Council has launched: Seven Steps Guide towards a Mentally Healthy Organisation as part of World Bank/WHO Out of the Shadows: Making Mental Health a Global Development Priority
→Our Chair’s blog: Out of the shadows – World Bank & World Health Organisation on Mental Health
→We are currently running a Work & Learning Call for Evidence on job quality