Your employees are constantly stressed and frequently ill? Then it is high time to focus on corporate resilience. Here you can find out how.

Agile, flexible, “always-on”: The age of digitization demands a lot from employees. One person gets along well with it, the other feels increasingly stressed by the dynamics and in the worst-case becomes ill. To prevent this, companies should work on their corporate resilience. But what does that mean in concrete terms?

There are people who flourish under great stress: The report was actually due yesterday? No problem. The customer visit was brought forward at short notice? Then the other dates have to be moved as well. Anyone who really gets going under high pressure has a high level of resilience – and is therefore well-prepared for the digital age.

However, the growing flood of information, constant restructuring, shortened innovation cycles, and increasing work density are causing massive problems for many employees. This is shown, among other things, by the ever-increasing number of mental illnesses: According to the DAK Psycho report, the number of sick days due to psychological complaints tripled between 1997 and 2017 meaning that the corporate resilience decreases.

Resilience can be learned

Fortunately, something can be done about it: resilience can be learned and strengthened – similar to football or table tennis. Because resilience is not a static toolbox of personal characteristics or positive environmental factors, but a variable and multidimensional process, which ideally – like sports training – is designed continuously. In other words, if you train regularly, you can actively strengthen your personal resistance to stress. And also master stressful job situations calmly.

For this reason alone, companies should put the issue of corporate resilience on their agenda. This includes first of all thoroughly analyzing and – wherever possible – optimizing the resilience constellations in management levels, departments and teams. Important: The focus should not be on pathogenesis but on salutogenesis. In concrete terms: Instead of just asking what made someone sick or threatened to make them sick, the main thing is to find out what can keep them healthy. Preventive approaches to occupational health management therefore attempt not only to work on deficits but also to build on the strengths of an employee. Occupational medical or industrial and organizational psychological (I/O psychology) analyses help.

The role model function of management

The linchpin of corporate resilience is management. The mental health of the entire workforce cannot be separated from the personal resilience of individual superiors. After all, managers are role models on the one hand and stress factors on the other – for example, when a project manager sends instructions to his team at midnight. The message at untimely times burdens employees twice: digitally in the evening and in the office the next day. The consequences are often loss of quality, dissatisfaction, and increasing sick leave. This makes it all the more important for the executive floor to put its resilience competence to the test first.

In addition to the corporate resilience check, it is also critical to modernizing the mindset of corporate culture – for example, by dealing with mistakes in an open, transparent and solution-oriented manner. This contributes not only to quality improvements but also to higher employee satisfaction. Finally, corporate resilience should be anchored as a strategic initiative with the necessary resources throughout the company as well as the corporate goals. This is the only way to ensure that the topic is permanently embedded in the collective consciousness of employees and management.

Relaxed employees are more productive

And that is important: because employee satisfaction increases in parallel with corporate resilience. Those who experience their boss as balanced, confident, communicative and loyal will be less ill. According to the AOK Absenteeism Report 2018, a resilient employee is absent for an average of 9.4 days a year – only about half as much as employees who constantly feel stressed. Find out how you can develop the resilience competencies of your managers and employees through intervention and training approaches – with TÜV Rheinland.

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Poor management, a lack of conflict, error, and criticism culture can cost a company dearly. Due to the shortage of skilled workers, demographic developments and digitalization, the demand for services related to mental health at the workplace are increasing more and more. ABO psychologists (Industrial and Organizational Psychology), for example, are a valuable support for organizations. But exactly this is their job and what are their strengths?

For a long time, the mental health of employees has received little attention. With the increasing density of work, ever higher demands and increasing burdens due to digital availability, mental health has also been the focus of attention for a few years now. By 2018, German health insurers had reported an ever-increasing number of cases of mental illness. They are now the most common cause of early retirement and occupational disability in Germany and, with 15.2 percent, are still the third most common cause of absenteeism. Poor leadership, a lack of conflict, error and criticism culture are sooner or later a business-critical issue that can endanger the continued existence of the organization. Above all, people can be overloaded to the point of burnout if they are only supposed to function on the factual level during change processes and are not heard. Fears, emotions and internal and external conflicts are still far too rarely discussed.

Looking behind the façade and promoting healthy cooperation

Unlike psychotherapists, ABO psychologists are not clinicians but analyze an organization and its actors at all hierarchical levels from a socio-psychological perspective. The job of an ABO psychologist is to look behind the façade of a company and analyze social relationships and interactions. How do individual people feel when, for example, they constantly experience themselves in change situations as a result of digitalization? To what extent do the demands and reality of a company’s social dealings soften and how does this affect the perception and behavior of employees? How does a manager lead and communicate? Are emotional needs addressed in communication in addition to factual issues, especially in change situations? And how does a company deal with conflicts, mistakes, and fears? Does a manager then also address the relationship levels between conflict parties and works up disturbed relationships in such a way that it can then continue on a healthy working level? ABO psychologists need a pronounced communicative and social competence. They must ask the right questions and above all be able to listen. They must moderate conversations and be emphatic and sympathetic to people of all hierarchies. Above all, they must impart knowledge and methods on how healthy cooperation in companies, departments or teams should and can be successful.

High qualification requirements for ABO psychologists

Ambitious providers recruit only graduates of a diploma or master’s degree course in psychology. In Germany, the subject has a numerus clause of 1.0. Other courses of study in psychology often do not fulfill the specialist and methodological knowledge that is ideally available. One recognizes quality providers by the fact that they submit enterprises no run-of-the-mill-offers, instead these can clarify beforehand, where the pain points are, what the enterprise needs and expects as purposeful solutions. Even though there are only a few legal requirements for ABO psychologists, large providers also attach great importance to the qualification of their colleagues along with the methodological and technical developments in corporate psychology research and practice.

Interdisciplinary cooperation

In 2013, the German legislator also recognized that mental health is a high value in a modern, synchronized and digitalized working world with increasingly older employees. It, therefore, included a guideline in the Occupational Health and Safety Act that all employers, regardless of the size of their company, must regularly carry out a risk analysis of psychological stress at the workplace. However, the guidelines for the implementation of the “Joint German Occupational Safety and Health Strategy” do not stipulate that such risk analysis must be prepared by psychologists. For example, at AMD TÜV it has been agreed that the ABO psychologists will be in charge of the process, will advise on the methodology and will play a key role in supporting communication. Occupational physicians and safety specialists must also be involved. The cooperation in prevention teams with occupational medicine, occupational health and safety, occupational health promotion and occupational integration management is necessary in order to deal with the complex issues relating to occupational health and safety in companies.

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), psychological stress is one of the greatest health threats of the 21st century. It can hit anyone and cause massive mental and physical problems. For this reason alone, employers should find the right way to deal with stress in the workplace early on and consistently, and support employees as needed. Find out how well this works.

Psychological stress at the workplace is increasing. As a result, the health insurance funds in Germany alone have been recording a steady increase in stress-related sick leave for years. Of about 15 days of absence per capita and year, an average of 2.5 days is currently spent on psychological complaints. According to a recent survey, one in five workers across Europe is under psychological stress every day and one in three is thinking about moving to a less stressful job.

Psychological stress costs the economy billions

Mental illnesses also cost the economy dearly. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the economic costs of mental illness in the European Union (EU) alone amount to around 600 billion Euros annually. Especially since many countries now even prescribe the risk assessment of psychological stress at the workplace by law. Workplace health management, therefore, pays off for companies in every respect. But not every professional requirement is detrimental to health. Thus, stress in moderation can also encourage higher performance, promote personal development and give positive impulses for the quality of life and work. It is therefore crucial for companies to recognize at an early stage what strains have negative impacts on the workforce and its motivation.

Facts decide

But how can well-founded insights be gained beyond the subjective statements of employees? With the Resilience Check, TÜV Rheinland for the first time offers a program that objectifies the subjectively felt physical and mental stress of employees based on reliable measured values – from heart health to sleep quality and recovery to general fitness. The resilience check provides companies with an instrument for realistically assessing the physical effects of psychological stress on the workforce – and initiating long-term, needs-based preventive measures. This makes it a useful addition to risk assessment and becomes a valuable element of occupational health and safety and health management.

Determine individual psychological stress factors

On the one hand, the individual employee benefits. After the online questionnaire on the physical condition (e.g. high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, sleep quality) and psychological condition (work-related behavior and experience pattern) in the context of their work has been completed, a chest strap measurement is carried out. On two ideal working days, different vital data on heart health, sleep quality, psychological stress, and physical activity are measured using a sensor that is attached to the skin like a plaster under the breast. A personal health report is automatically delivered at the end of the measurement. On the other hand, the company receives an anonymous company report for the targeted planning of company prevention measures: With simple anonymized comparison values across e.g. departments or locations, focal points for action are prioritized.

A classic win-win situation: employees learn which psychological stress factors particularly motivate or burden them, employers get a holistic picture of the state of health of their own workforce – and can then focus on health prevention. For example, by realigning work processes, planning additional resources or designing offers for occupational health prevention in a target-group-specific manner, whether health advice, planning measures or introducing a holistic occupational health management system. Contact us to learn more about how you can optimize your workplace health management.

Competence Management TÜV Rheinland Academy