Cultivating compassionate and resilient teams: a guide for managers on workplace wellbeing

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Many managers struggle conceptually with balancing being a compassionate leader who encourages their teams to look after their wellbeing, while also fostering a culture of performance and resilience.

The two certainly do not contradict one another, as we can see across hundreds of case studies and from our experience working with thousands of managers. Having a compassionate understanding of the wellbeing needs of teams and the way they work is essential to both encourage them to sustainably thrive at work and in their health and happiness. 

This article delves into why workplace wellbeing is crucial and how managers can both lead with compassion and nurture resilience within their teams.

The importance of wellbeing

Compassion is a kind of empathy where we not only understand a person’s predicament and feel with them, but are spontaneously moved to help, if needed. Resilience is our capacity to: prepare for, deal with, recover from, and adapt to situations of stress and adversity in flexible ways.

When wellbeing in the workplace is encouraged and enabled through a compassionate approach, we can see that it significantly impacts both the health and happiness of employees and the overall success of the organisation from a work perspective. When employees feel encouraged and enabled to do what they need to do for their wellbeing, the benefits we have seen include: improved motivation, engagement levels, higher job performance and productivity, and helps foster a supportive environment – reducing turnover and increasing presenteeism.

Conversely, neglecting employee wellbeing can lead to decreased motivation, poor performance, higher turnover, and increased absenteeism. As such, wellbeing is not a “soft” or intangible aspect of management but a concrete factor that directly affects team resilience and organisational success. These all have significant bottom line impacts on teams and organisations.

Essentially, being a compassionate leader can lead to more resilient and thriving teams.

Defining wellbeing and creating awareness

Step One: Define wellbeing within your teams

To support wellbeing effectively, managers must first define what it means within their teams, why they deem it important and relevant for the workplace, as well as provide a level of permission giving and encouragement for staff to look after their overall wellbeing. When looking at wellbeing from a holistic point of view, it encompasses many dimensions, including mental health, physical activity, sleep, nutrition, psychological safety, and resilience. We have seen this is most effective when clear communication about the messaging is sent out through multiple channels such as in town hall meetings, through MS Teams or Slack groups, in 1-2-1 meetings and even with physical posters – whilst also providing regular reminders across the year, particularly in very busy or stressful times.

Step Two: Understand team needs

As a manager, there is no one size fits all option to supporting the wellbeing of multiple team members. Understanding the unique needs of your team can be achieved through personal conversations, group discussions, or anonymous surveys to gauge wellbeing levels across the team and identify common challenges and opportunities. Assess areas such as their work related stress, how confident they feel in looking after their own wellbeing, their perception of current wellbeing support options, how enabled they feel to look after their wellbeing and diving deep into areas such as: workload, mental health, physical activity, sleep, nutrition, psychological safety, and resilience to identify what’s working and what needs improvement.

Step 3: Workload auditing

Over the last year we have seen that many staff feel overburdened by their workload – which can be the root cause of many wellbeing related issues. Yet managers have not audited why the team feel overburdened, causing a lack of clarity around where the issues lie. Overburdened employees are more likely to experience stress and burnout, which can severely impact their mental and physical health. At times we have seen that the team is under-resourced and workloads are genuinely too high, meaning not all tasks can be completed and KPIs can’t be hit without major changes. However, providing support for staff around resilience, productivity, prioritisation, time management and teamwork can also help to alleviate the perceived workload issues.

Managers should ensure all staff are clear about their roles and tasks. If an individuals’ role is constantly changing, help the individual be clear on the fact that their role is dynamic and ensure they are auditing their priorities regularly.

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It is essential to understand how clear staff members are on task prioritisation, identifying which tasks are more pertinent. Analyse the amount of time staff spend on high-priority versus low-priority tasks, and also determine the number of hours worked per day.

Assessing whether staff members feel they have enough time and resources to complete tasks in line with set deadlines, and whether those deadlines are appropriate, is crucial.

It’s also important to examine the number of distractions affecting essential work, such as unnecessary meetings, emails, and internal communications.

Workload balancing should be evaluated to ensure tasks are distributed fairly among team members based on skill sets, capacity, and workload capacity. Is there a go-to person or people you always delegate to, with others in the team at the same level having significantly less to do?

Identifying tasks that can be automated or streamlined to reduce workloads is also vital.

Lastly, managers should regularly evaluate how often workload and task prioritisation reviews are carried out, particularly during unusual times such as end-of-year reporting, campaign launches, emergencies, and new product launches.

Step 4: Creating an action plan

With a clear understanding of your team’s wellbeing and workload needs, the next step is to create an action plan to support their wellbeing.

Firstly, ensure all your managers are trained up on how to support the wellbeing of their peers. Cover aspects such as how to develop a team wellbeing strategy, how to have compassionate wellbeing conversations, how to signpost team members to further wellbeing support, and include emotional intelligence and communication tools. We have found that training all managers across organisations can contribute to very significant cultural shifts, improvements in staff wellbeing, and large work improvement too.

As a manager, you could also organise live, virtual or on-demand workshops and training on identified areas of need for employees on topics such as ‘tools and tips to manage stress and anxiety’, ‘how to foster a culture of kindness’, ‘how to boost your resilience’, ‘physical activity for good mental health’, ‘wellbeing champion training’ and more.

Scheduling regular check-ins for managers and teams focused specifically on wellbeing, and promoting team bonding through social events and physical activity challenges can also help. Continuous improvement is key, so regularly measure the effectiveness of your wellbeing initiatives and update them based on feedback and changing needs.

Building Resilience

While fostering a happy and healthy team is vital, it’s also essential to prepare for and manage difficult moments. Resilience training helps employees prepare for planned and unplanned stressful situations, how to handle the stress and bounce back from challenges quickly. This involves equipping employees with tools and strategies to prepare for potential challenges, teaching techniques for managing stress and adversity as they occur, and providing resources and support to help employees recover and return to their baseline after difficult situations.

Employees should learn to understand their feelings, recognise their baseline state, and utilise resilience-boosting strategies. This not only enhances their wellbeing but also their ability to perform under pressure, ultimately leading to increased productivity and value to the organisation.


For managers, supporting team wellbeing requires a comprehensive approach that involves understanding, planning, and continuous improvement. By cultivating a compassionate environment and building resilience, managers can ensure that their teams are not only happy and healthy but also equipped to handle any challenges that come their way. The result is a more motivated, productive, and loyal workforce that drives the organisation forward.

About the author:

Khalil Rener is the Director at Rener Wellbeing. He has a BSc in Sport and Exercise Science and an MSc in Sport Management with Distinction from Loughborough University, where he focused his research on workplace wellbeing. He has over 10 years of experience coaching, consulting and in sustainable development with the likes of Leicester Tigers rugby club, Gartner, Oxford International and Loughborough University.

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