Resilience in Organizations – Dream or Reality?

A resilient team or company is well equipped to weather any kind of challenges. Just as burnout needs to be understood in its systemic context, building resilience is not a private matter, either. Designing a safety net against losing sight of the employees and their needs can be an integral part of company culture. 

“Modern Work”, “New Work” – does this mean “employee well-being” and nothing more? Losing sight of performance, indulging in buzzwords? It is worth investigating whether humanizing the workplace necessarily means becoming less success-oriented or if a “people first” approach can be a sustainable path towards high achievement.

Do we want to approach the challenges of work as lone warriors?
Or do we want to cooperate in new ways?

“We are not social services”, “If you can’t stand the heat, leave the kitchen”, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” – do these slogans sound familiar? If similar claims can be heard in your company on an everyday basis, chances are you will question the mindset because you know about its consequences. Many will even quit because this kind of culture seems toxic to them, counterproductive for quality of life and work.

But whoever has experienced a different way of working, after some time in traditional companies, will likely be surprised by themselves: 

  • feelings of bonding and commitment will be strong – headhunters can’t lure you away easily  
  • work-life balance loses its importance, because work is no longer a place of toil and hardship, but a realm of creativity and self-efficacy
  • you feel psychologically safe, mistakes are met with a “growth mindset”
  • you don’t need to be persuaded to co-create, it comes easy to you
  • you find yourself interested in the company’s strategy and policies, and feel invited to exert influence on them.

Companies of that kind are usually magnets for high achievers with an interest in quality of life and longevity, and with a passion for quality of work in the long term. Nowadays, we have a market driven by well-trained experts, not by employers. The former will be able to choose between more or less progressive organisations. The latter will lose their best people if they do not provide them with adequate support and opportunities to participate and co-create.

What does “resilience” mean after all?

A young, well-trained athlete who feels excellent and has never experienced any real challenges with regard to health or personal issues – would you call him or her resilient? Or simply “strong”, “fit”, “efficient”? Quite logically, resilience needs the presence of a threat, a stress test. The term was coined in materials science, meaning that a fabric can withstand stress (for example, by resiliently bouncing back after an impact).

Resilience in tune with fundamentals of “modern work” does not mean becoming capable of enduring unacceptable conditions. “If you’re going through hell, keep going” may be a valuable maxim in the short term. But too many staffers live a life they never desired until they reach retirement age. Frequently quoted are the greatest “regrets of the dying”, according to Bronnie Ware, the first being: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me”. 

Being resilient can mean to stand up for yourself (and the people entrusted to you) and fight for improving working conditions. It can also mean to choose the “humane” workplace, even if the pay is lower than at a competing company. And it can mean to open up about challenges you are experiencing, because you trust your team that they will not exploit a temporary “weakness”, but offer you all the support they can.

Resilience: strength in the face of adversity

“What protects us makes us stronger”

Not only individuals, but also whole teams, departments and enterprises can become exhausted and lose energy in a way that cannot be easily restored. It seems wise to not shut the stable door after the horse has bolted but to think about preventing conflict and burnout before damage has happened.

Increasing organisational resilience by supporting a culture of dealing well with conflict: what does that include? First, it means the ability to notice tensions as early as possible. Awareness for these early signs can be learned. Then, people involved need to know they are welcome with everything they bring to the table: conflict, brought to the surface, can be an excellent source of revelations about the company, about possible flaws in practice and strategy, and areas where growth is needed.

 “A good half of the art of living is resilience”, is a famous quote by Alain de Botton. In the same logic it can be said: a good half of the art of leading a company is supporting its people in order to let them grow into their full potential. The pandemic has left applicants and staff hungry for their needs to be met: word has gotten around that there are employers interested in participation, value-based communication, purpose-driven leadership and fostering a growth mindset. Hyper-traditional organisations will find it increasingly difficult to attract high performers: independent, autonomous personalities who live by the motto: “Don’t motivate me, just -diligently!- eliminate the things that demotivate me”. (According to the latest motivational research, this is actually enough). 

Fostering resilience builds a safety net

One of the principles of modern work, “people-first approaches”, states: when in doubt “whether a decision is good for the people or for power, one should be guided by the decision close to the people”. It is strongly related to the principle of sustainability: an organization which genuinely cares for their people will not only earn their commitment, but also prevent losing valuable skills due to exhaustion, illness or career choices against the company. This simply also means saving time and money. 

Imagine a company supporting the co-workers’ courage to live a life true to themselves – wouldn’t it go without saying that they would never want to leave? Wouldn’t they do everything they can to support the company’s goals in return? Cultivating organisational resilience can be a true win for all sides, and the company itself will become more and more resilient against any external and internal threats. This way, the “future of work” will not stay a dream, but a place you can build and inhabit, a reality that can become a home for the most creative personalities – a place worth being invited to!


Written by Antonia Anderland

Antonia Anderland has been a systemic business consultant, mediator and business coach for more than 20 years. She focuses on the prevention of conflict and burnout, coaching teams and C-level executives.

Modern Work Principles – How 9 principles influence modern work worldwide

Across the globe, the world of work is changing rapidly. This affects everyone who works and wants to be employed in the future. In this blog post, you’ll learn what principles are important for successful, modern work worldwide and what they can mean for your company.

Anna and Nils are the initiators of the international Modern Work Award. For almost two years they have been to 34 countries and worked with over 130 companies, with the question of how modern work is actually done far and wide. On this Modern Work Tour we got to know the world’s best knowledge for modern collaboration. Unsurprisingly, there are people all over the world who now perceive work differently and want to proactively shape it for the better. 

In a world where people often think about how we are different from others, we have gathered the commonalities of modern work. In doing so, we asked ourselves: 

  • What do these people have in common?
  • What drives them in their work?
  • How do they implement modern ways of working?
  • Why do they design their work differently and in a new way?

The results are basic values that we found for Modern Work. These form the foundation of the Modern Work Award: The 9 Modern Work Principles. They are intended to inspire change in “how we work”. 

Let’s inspire people to embark on the adventure of work themselves. Will you join us? Then apply for the award or become a sponsor to actively promote innovative collaboration initiatives. 

Purpose-driven enabling

When people find purpose in their work, work becomes meaningful. Ascribing meaning to one’s work puts out new power in us again. This means that we work with more pleasure, passion and motivation. And that usually makes us healthier and relieves us from stressful everyday life. When companies open up spaces to address the why in work, the purpose of the employee, greater identification with the employer and employee loyalty can result. That’s why Modern Work endorses purpose-driven initiatives and becomes an enabling factor for the people at work.

People first approaches

In deciding whether a decision is good for the people or for power, one should be guided by the decision close to the people. People-first decisions occur when leaders and organizations consistently strive to provide positive and empowering work experiences. When ideas are recognized and acted upon, employees are much more willing to actively think and work on problems within the company. This is how innovations are created.

Modern work stands for people-oriented approaches.

Foster growth mindset

In times of constant change, we must regularly adapt and develop new ideas. In order to remain accessible to such ideas, it is important that we meet challenges with appreciation and see them as opportunities to grow. We can decide to do this every single day. A growth mindset recognizes the potential in things and pursues them even after setbacks. Entrepreneurs who possess such openness react flexibly to change and are able to manage their company confidently in challenging times. Modern work enables us to explore and follow our path through uncertainty.

Skill based initiatives

If someone is good at something, give them the space they need to excel. Above all, this means that a “shift to leadership” is needed. Only in this way can managers better support their employees in developing their abilities. It takes courageous leadership and a new understanding of leadership that supports people in taking their own steps. Modern work supports skills-oriented initiatives to help people to embrace what they are good at.

Be as transparent and open as possible

The more we share within the company, the better we can assess our own actions and focus on them. Transparency and openness thus become fundamental conditions for developing oneself, one’s team and the company in a way that is fit for the future. Modern work promotes transparency as a catalyst for better and faster decisions and openness.

Embrace self-leadership & responsibility

More freedom in our actions means more personal responsibility for ourselves and others. But one thing is certain: if you want to work in a self-determined way, you have to be prepared to take on responsibility. This is not for cowards and requires space and time to learn. Modern Work encourages a high level of self-leadership and responsibilities while getting all the support needed by the work context.

Learning and sharing culture

Learning from and with each other means supporting each other through sharing. Because one thing is clear: If you don’t invest in new knowledge, you won’t be able to master tomorrow’s challenges with yesterday’s knowledge. In the future, the focus will be on how knowledge can be networked in the best possible way. Modern Work fosters a learning and sharing culture and embodies knowledge as the driver for success.

Sustainability approaches

With limited resources we have to decide how sustainable we want to be. In the work context, it is the call to initiate new ways of thinking that contribute to better living conditions for all. The company of the future should strive to create a working world that is child- and grandchild-friendly. Modern work stands for social and sustainable solutions in relation to each other and our planet as opposed to quick profits and cheap quality.


In order for diversity to succeed in our work, it is crucial that we break down prejudices and basically make people curious about new things. We consider cultural diversity to be an essential driver for doing this successfully. Modern Work stands for value driven approaches while accepting everybody for who they are – everybody is special, let’s treat one another accordingly.

Work needs to bring added value in order to bring impact. Modern Work strives for a well balanced approach, where work pays off – without exploitation of people and the planet. Let’s do that together – globally connected as never before. 

You see it the same way and work along the Modern Work principles yourself? That’s great and should be rewarded – apply now.

Written by Anna Schnell

I’m the managing director of MOWOMIND together with my beloved husband. As “Head of Quality”, I take care of the content-related topics at the award team. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. By the way: I am passionate about the new working world and have written about it as an author in the books “New Work Hacks” and “The Modern Work Tour – a world tour into the future of our work”.