Enspiring Consulting Logo
Meaningful ways to increase your productivity, performance and well-being backed up by scientific research.

Relationships & Resilience.

I have been talking about resilience, the process of bouncing forward from life’s adversity, in the last few blog posts. A lot of my speaking engagements are either directly or indirectly about resilience. Given all the stress that occurred in 2020 due to COVID-19, social unrest, the election and climate change I think we as people realized we need to find ways to be more resilient and employers are coming to realize that resilient employees make resilient organizations (Kuntz, Malinen & Naswall, 2017).

In January I talked about self-care and how our sleep, nutrition and exercise habits form the critical foundation for our resilience. I promised I’d move on to more exciting aspects of resilience – like re-framing – in the next post. Yet on my way to re-framing I realized I was skipping over another key aspect of resilience and our mental health; social support.

 Considerable research has revealed a persistent correlation between social support and health; a meta-analysis of 148 studies revealed that individuals with strong social relationships lived longer than individuals who had weak relationships (Holt-Lunstad, Smith, & Layton, 2010). When we have strong social support, we are less likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors (like smoking), we cope with stress more effectively, we feel more positive and we feel a greater sense of self-esteem (Tabibinia & Rodecki, 2018). Beyond our personal well-being, in Adam Grant’s podcast (2020) he shared research that when we do not have strong relationships at work, co-workers say we are less approachable, harder to work with and our performance reviews decrease. In short, we are happier, more easy-going people when we have strong social support.

So how do we develop and nurture supportive relationships when we are working at home and when we are out in public spaces we are literally reminded with signs on doors and stickers on floors that we need to stay physically distant? We need to make it a habit; we need to make connecting socially part of our routine.

The good news is we need just a few strong relationships – the quality of our relationships matters more than the quantity. If you begin by investing a little more in the relationships you already have you’ll quickly start to reap the benefits.

Here are some suggestions for strengthening connections at work:

  • In a weekly meeting, take the first 5 minutes to have one person share a photo and a story about how they spend their free time. This could be whatever the person is comfortable sharing – a loaf of bread they baked, their dog, a room they remodeled, etc. Rotate through the team and give the person advance notice so they can prepare!
  • Another weekly meeting idea: ask for a tour of your co-workers workspace. Again, give them advance notice so they can get it camera ready!
  • More informally, use the first 5 minutes of a meeting to get curious and ask your co-worker about a hobby.

Some suggestions for strengthening connections at home (in the time of COVID-19):

  • As a family, choose one person’s hobby and everyone work on a project together. For instance, if someone is a painter, paint together – either one big picture or individual pictures for a collage. Or, if one person is a bicyclist, go for a ride together.
  • Have a special meal – either order in take-out or make a mal together – and then play “would you rather” while enjoying the meal.
  • Go on a virtual field trip as a family to explore a city, museum or zoo no one in the family has visited before.

Suggestions for strengthening friendships (in the time of COVID-19):

  • Make a list of people who bring you positive energy and are your supporters – even if you have not connected with them in a while. Each day reach out to one person – connect on the phone, send them a silly meme or send them a card.
  • Choose a book to read with one person or a small group and have a virtual book discussion.
  • Go through old pictures and share


Grant, A. (2020, April). We don’t have to fight loneliness alone. (No. 4) [Audio podcast episode]. In Worklife. TED.com. https://www.ted.com/talks/worklife_with_adam_grant_we_don_t_have_to_fight_loneliness_alone

Holt-Lunstad J, Smith T.B., & Layton J.B. (2010). Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review. PLoS Medicine, 7(7). e1000316. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316

Kuntz, J. R. C., Malinen, S., & Naswall, K. (2017). Employee resilience: Directions for resilience development. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 69(3), 223-242. https://doi.org/10.1037/cpb0000097

Tabibnia, G., & Radecki, D. (2018). Resilience training that can change the brain. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 70(1), 59-88. https://doi:.org/cpb0000110