The world’s “permacrisis” and our unique South African brand of stress explains why organisational resilience is a trending topic. Resilience is “the ability to recover from or adapt to challenging life experiences, through mental, emotional and behavioural adjustments to external and internal demands”. If the strength of a company is only as good as its people, all CEOs should be currently focusing on building individual and team resilience. This is particularly pertinent to software development because software development itself is normally a stressful profession where productivity is directly dependent on an individual’s ability to focus.

Chillisoft recently discussed resilience (individual, team and organisational resilience) and in this press release, we share some of our team's feedback and insights.

In the last few years, South Africans have experienced COVID-19, lockdown, riots, floods, corruption, increasing load-shedding and the looming threat of job cuts given the poor economic forecast. The software industry has transitioned from a largely office-based environment to working remotely. These changes have resulted in new lifestyles, and in some cases, increasing isolation, new life priorities, a decrease in individual competitiveness, a weakened work ethic and 8am to 5pm availability. Software developers who are working remotely are juggling family responsibilities, work and increasing pressure to deliver more.

Given the uncertain environment, a software developer’s tendency to take on too much and the large amount of change in our lives, we can assume that most of us have an over-activated amygdala. We probably slip into and out of anxiety and fear several times a day, triggering our autonomic fight or flight response. The fight or flight response is automatically triggered by fear or stress impacting our breathing, over-exposing our bodies to cortisol and stress hormones, ultimately causing us to have a negative affect or disposition. A negative affect impacts on the team dynamics, mood, your world view and an individual’s resilience levels.

Some of the interventions that increases personal resilience includes:

  • Celebrating your wins;
  • Learning to reframe situations;
  • Understanding that meaningful work is episodic and subjective;
  • Learning to find meaning in your work;
  • Accepting that you are accountable for your happiness and job fulfilment;
  • Actively preparing to focus via meditation;
  • Continually building self-awareness and self-regulation by learning to reflect regularly;
  • Learning to focus on what you can control;
  • Practising gratitude;
  • Understanding the importance of building and committing to a self-care habit; and
  • Getting adequate sleep.

As a team lead, you have to:

  • Create an environment that is transparent, allowing you to build and maintain trust;
  • Communicate expectations clearly;
  • Connect and build relationships in your team;
  • Maintain an environment where opinions and contributions can be safely made;
  • Make learning safe;
  • Try and keep the tone “light” and fun;
  • Talk less and listen more; and
  • Ensure that feedback loops are integrated in your processes.

As an employer, you can ensure that your employees have:

  • Easy access to professional counsellors or access via an employee assistance programme;
  • Shared values, identity and purpose; and
  • The required support to build the necessary competency and skills.

It is also critical that the organisation’s processes have embedded feedback loops, which allows you to stay in touch with your team’s reality. You have to regularly provide context for changes and you have to be authentic, keeping positivity grounded and real.

In addition to the above, we at Chillisoft have a comprehensive employee assistance programme that provides support to our employees and their families, since we recognise the impact of family stress on an employee’s mental health. We support learning by dedicating a day to "deliberate practice" and having a progression framework that assists employees with learning, developing and practising their skillsets. We focus on working a full production day so that our team does not work ridiculous hours and therefore has adequate sleep. Chillisoft also teaches and practises the following interventions that build an individual’s resilience across the team:

  1. Focus time (ie, focused attention);
  2. Understanding your brain;
  3. Reflection and introspection;
  4. Active listening;
  5. How to use the ladder of inference; and
  6. The growth mindset.

We also ensure that we are aligned as a team via our annual Values Alignment workshop that interprets our values and challenges in the current context. Chillisoft is resilient (zero retrenchments in 18 years of operations) and we will continue to be resilient because we manage Chillisoft as a system that is continually adapting and changing. We also have been known for our “gees” and “grit” that is captured by the following two quotes: “Success is not final; failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts,” by Winston Churchill, and: “I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it,” by Maya Angelou.

Resilience can be learned and we believe that employee resilience and well-being are associated with work engagement and that organisational resilience is directly correlated to work engagement.

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