It’s hard to escape the pressures of work when we live in a ‘always-on’ world where we are constantly bombarded with emails, texts and news alerts. The demands on our time are greater than ever and it can be overwhelming. As a business leader, it’s important to recognise that stressed out people are not productive people. Although stress is a natural human reaction, sustained stress is toxic for high performing teams and can lead to burnout.
British businesses lost 12.7 million working days due to stress in 2016/17 according to the Health & Safety Executive’s Labour Force Survey. That accounted for 40% of self-reported ill health.
So, as a leader or manager, what can you do to help to make your team more resilient to stress?
The good news is that there are some straightforward ways to implement wellbeing practices for your team.
Personal development is key
What are the tools your team could use to focus on their personal development? Mindfulness training has been shown to allow people to manage stressful situations more effectively and maintain high performance. A trial run by the BBC and the University of Westminster showed it was better than gardening and yoga for reducing stress.
There are now a number of apps such as Headspace or Calm that encourage just a few minutes of meditation each day to help performance. It’s easy to download a few, give them a trial run and see if they would work for your team.
Collaboration, not competition
Make sure as a leader you are encouraging your team to work together rather than in competition with one another. Foster an ‘in it together’ mentality rather than one-upmanship; make sure no one views a colleague as a threat or competitor.
Leave the office
Could you put regular time aside for a personal activity, exercise or sport that would allow your team some time to refocus? Research has found that access to green spaces has a positive effect on stress levels so taking some time out of the office to reconnect with nature can be beneficial to wellbeing. If that’s not feasible, even encouraging team members to take some time away from their desks to exercise or even just a short walk during their working day will help
Factor in recovery time
Jumping from one highly-stressful project to another will increase the chances of your team burning out. Continuous hard work at this pace is unsustainable. It’s important to incorporate some recovery time so that the team can evaluate the last project, recharge their batteries, then refocus to begin the next lot of work
One thing at a time
It’s now a recognised fact that multi-tasking is a myth and focusing on one task at a time is the way to more successfully manage workload. As a leader, you can encourage this ‘mono-tasking’ by giving team members clear priorities and delivery dates that don’t blur together. Make sure that your team are being mindful and able to give things their full attention. Even small things like having ‘phone-free meetings’ so everyone can focus more effectively
Give colleagues the opportunity to define the way they do things so they feel more in control. This could be anything from days when they can work from home, to planning their workload. As long as they achieve the result, give them some room to work out how they do it. Micro-managing people is generally always a sure-fire way to generate stress
Permission to say no
Give your people the permission to prioritise tasks that get thrown their way. Give them the tools to recognise tasks that are urgent but not important. What order do those things realistically need to be delivered in? Empower your team to make sure these tasks don’t take focus away from the real priorities.
As a leader, managing the way that your team handles stress and making them more resilient is one of the most important things you can do to develop collaboration, employee engagement and, ultimately, a truly high performing team.