Johannesburg: The world has changed at its most rapid pace since the industrial revolution and the Covid-pandemic has accelerated this socio-economic metamorphosis. Where 18 months ago the daily grind included trips to and from the office, reality has created home and workplace conflicts with entirely new mindsets demanded from people. Sans any change in resilience on an organizational and individual level, technology and new ways of working risk becoming disablers as opposed to enablers.
Stress could be the next epidemic and concomitant to that, says psychologist and business mentor Dr Mark Orpen-Lyall, “resilience has become the most important meta-skill of the 21st century.” He says that society is sitting at a very important inflection point in history. “We are currently going through one of the largest social experiments in the history of mankind, in terms of working from home and dealing with the pandemic. Depression rates are escalating, so much so that the World Health Organisation has declared that stress is the health epidemic of the 21st Century.”
Based upon ongoing research, he says that resilient people are more productive, and resilient leaders lead teams of people who have far more endurance, with 52% less burnout and 78% less likely to leave their companies. Resilience has a bottom line imperative too: according to a study conducted well before the current global public health crisis, companies that focussed on the wellbeing and safety of their staff outperformed the stock market by 300%. The statistics continue to tell the story: 40% of all workplace-related injuries in South Africa are due to work-related stress.
Stress-related absenteeism, under-performance, and employee attrition comes at a significant opportunity cost, he says. “Globally, anxiety, depression, and stress contribute to 44% of all work-related ill health and 57% of all days lost per year to ill health. The impact is immense,” notes Orpen-Lyall, even more so in a time of COVID 19 with its attendant uncertainty, turbulence in the economy, and widespread threats of unemployment and salary cuts. “Things aren’t going to get easier,” he says, “in fact, they’ll probably get a lot harder; we’ve become used to doing more with less and every year just seems to get faster and faster, and consequently, resilience has become the meta-skill for all of us as humans.”
It is this disconnect and potential threat to companies and individuals that led Orpen-Lyall to partner with Henley Business School and develop a Resilience course that combines his quarter of a century of research into digestible and actionable tools. “We wanted to do something to give them the skills to cope with a very uncertain world.” Orpen-Lyall hopes to make a real contribution to progressive wellness in South Africa through the course. He says it’s online, flexible and easy to access and put into practice.
Learning about purpose and rediscovering your humanity, Orpen-Lyall says, is part and parcel of a process that teaches you that you can have a fulfilling career and a rich personal life without the two being mutually exclusive. “A lot of people make these trade-offs in their lives and justify it by saying you just have to do that. It’s not true, indeed from a health perspective, when people aren’t finding the different parts of their lives, their disease burden goes up exponentially.”