In March this year, The Australian Principal Occupational Health and Wellbeing Survey Report found that Australian principals are experiencing record levels of stress and burnout amid soaring administrative workloads and pressure from parents, governments and other education stakeholders.
The report found that principals and their deputies are working at least 55 hours a week on average, while a quarter reported working more than 60 hours a week.
One anti-burnout practice often endorsed by experts the world over is resilience. Indeed, schools got an unexpected crash course in workforce resilience during the Covid-19 pandemic – a crisis that continues to impact on the mental health of students and staff alike.
Data reveals that the onset of the pandemic resulted in a significant dip in average global resilience, followed by some of the highest global ratios seen since the research began in 2018. This sharp uptick in global resilience averages is evidence that adversity stimulates resilience, encouraging us to move forward and grow.
Between 2018 and 2021, The Resilience Institute in partnership with Springfox analysed 23,990 employees from around the world who completed a Resilience Diagnostic Assessment (RDA) to determine their level of resilience and identify their strengths and weaknesses in the areas of personal and professional well-being.
From January to March 2020, as the pandemic unfolded, our collective resilience ratio fell to 1.66, the lowest on record since 2018. However, April through to June 2020 saw this figure rebound to over 1.75, charting some of the highest global ratios ever seen.
Comparing those employees with the highest resilience scores (above 2.6) to those with the lowest resilience scores (below 0.98), the report reveals an average global resilience ratio of 1.8 for men and 1.67 for women. The comparison also highlights the key factors which distinguish those who are most resilient from those who are least: sleep, fulfilment, bounce, relaxation, and focus.
The research team’s Assessment found the top five critical factors needed to strengthen workplace resilience – sleep, fulfilment, bounce, relaxation, and focus – and the impact these factors have on overall well-being in times of uncertainty and stress.
Sleep is a defining factor of, and contributor to, high overall resilience. The report reveals that of the most resilient employees, eight in ten (86%) have mastered sleep quality, compared to just 7% of lowest performing employees. The study also highlights that professionals who receive formal resilience training experience a 25% improvement in sleep, including a 27% reduction in insomnia.
Fulfilment refers to a sense of personal and professional purpose and being aligned with this purpose in one’s role. The report shows that 94% of those with high resilience scores also have a strong sense of fulfilment, compared to just 18% of those with low overall resilience scores. In addition, formal resilience training is proven to increase fulfillment by up to 25%.
Bounce refers to a foundation of resilience that allows us to recover quickly after dealing with change and disruption, and is linked to tactical calm, contemplation, and relaxation. Highly resilient individuals have great capacity for bounce (91%) while only 23% of those with low resilience have mastered the ability to bounce forward after adversity. After resilience training, bounce increases by 19% in women and 16% in men.
Practising relaxation activates the parasympathetic nervous system, enabling calm, connection, and focus. A large majority (83%) of those with high resilience have effective relaxation practices, compared to only 17% of those with low resilience. Stress mastery is the area of greatest gain for participants in resilience training programs, with increases of 51% in contemplation for males and 43% for females.
The ability to be present and focus on what matters is one of the top three factors for resilience and is key to high performance at work. While one in three (29%) of those with low resilience are strong in focus, a significant 95% of highly resilient individuals demonstrate strong focus. Focus is a skill that can be developed over time, and following resilience training, has shown to increase by approximately 10%.
Peta Sigley, Chief Knowledge Officer at Springfox, said school leaders can draw from the above factors to improve workplace performance and mental well-being, leading to a happier, healthier, and more harmonious workforce.
“Individuals with the highest resilience rating have these five key characteristics in common,” Sigley told The Educator.
“Prioritising these five factors daily will enable educators to build resilience in themselves, and in turn, the wider school community.”