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Engineers Know About Resilience: New Stress Training

Resilience applies to both the technical aspects of engineering and also the health and productivity of the engineering firm.

Engineers Know About Stress and Resilience. When engineers design structures, they consider how those structures will withstand stress. The concept of resilience (in materials and design) is not new to engineers. Similarly, personal stress is important to address for a variety of reasons. When neglected, stress hurts our health, engagement at work, teamwork, and productivity. One solution requires tapping into our inner resources, both as individuals and as a work team. Like engineers of our own life, we want structures that withstand pressures and stressors. Similarly, we want our team, our company, to be prepared for and also bounce back from adversity and trouble.

Designed Wellness Resilience Challenge: During June and July 2015, ACEC Designed Wellness is running our first online well-being campaign called “Team Resilience: Finding Strength through Stress.”  If you are a member of a ACEC Designed Wellness firm, you can access the program here.

In this program, resilience is examined in three different ways. First, as the personal ability to find strength through stress. We build our confidence, our commitment to work through problems, and also the ability to center oneself (breathe, relax) when we get agitated. Second, resilience is seen as the ability to learn from difficulty. The online program guides participants to think about how stress as been a teacher. Finally, resilience also involves supporting each other in the work setting. Both community and compassion are critical to resilience: we pitch in to deal with problems and show concern or empathy.

Human Factors and System Resilience: In a work setting, not every team member is always strong in all these different areas. We all function together like a system. Just like engineering projects, different people are needed for different tasks. Think about this definition from the text book “Resilience Engineering in Practice“:

“The intrinsic ability of a system to adjust its functioning prior to, during, or following changes and disturbances, so that it can sustain required operations under both expected and unexpected conditions.”

This definition can be applied to engineering firms because they also function like systems that must adjust to stay alive and even thrive. Engineers often focus on the demanding tasks at hand rather than on their personal “ability to adjust…in both expected and unexpected conditions.” This is why we created this new resilience challenge and why we encourage you to participate in it.

Five Resilience Areas: Parallels with Resilience Engineering. Resilience requires confidence, commitment, centering, community, and compassion. These apply to both well-being and resilience engineering. Below are some initial ideas to think about. We encourage you to find your own parallels.

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Resilience Challenge Project Update

So far, we have had almost 100 engineering staff from over 25 firms participate in the Team Resilience challenge.

Remember that you can click here to use the program too!

The challenge provides tips and guidelines for each of the Five Cs of resilience and some participants complete an optional post-training survey. They are asked to rate whether they improved in four different areas. They rate on a scale from 1 (No Change) to 5 (Improved Greatly). A figure showing the items and results are shown below.

Essentially, 90% of the 83 who completed the optional survey reported at least “some” improvement in one of the four rating areas. Note that “some” is a 3 rating on a 5 point rating scale. Also, 54% of the 83 who completed the optional survey reported at least “much or great” improvement in one of the four rating areas. Roughly 40% reported much or great improvement in their knowledge of how to be more resilient and of where to get help for stress.

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