How to manage your team’s stress

It can be difficult enough to manage your own stress. But how can you, as a leader, help the members of your team handle their feelings of stress, burnout, or disengagement?

Let’s face it, work is getting more demanding and complex, and because many of us now work in 24/7 ‘world’, anxiety and burnout are not uncommon. In our high-pressure workplaces, staying productive and engaged can be challenging.

Although it’s unlikely that the pace or intensity of work will change much anytime soon, there’s a growing eveidence that suggests certain types of development activities can effectively build the capacity for resilience. Below are some approaches to consider.

Encourage well-being practices.  Worker stress levels are rising, with over half of the global workforce reporting that they are closer to burnout than they were just five years ago (Regus Group Survey). While stress can be contagious, the opposite is also true: when any member of a team experiences well-being, the effect seems to spread across the entire team. So importantly, understand and prioritise activities that promote well-being for yourself and your team. They could include such things as offering personal development tools, like mindfulness and resilience training or explicitly encouraging people to take time for exercise or other renewal activities, such as a quality lunch break and sleeping well.

 Train the brain to deal with chaos.  Neuroscience research shows that the practice of mindfulness can train the brain and create useful mental habits that promote resilience and productivity at work. Leaders and teams who train their brains to develop mindfulness collaborate better, navigate stress more effectively, and sustain high performance. Check out some of the great mindfulness apps online such as Calm or Headspace.

 FOCUS (Follow One Course Until Successful). Multitasking is a myth.  Neuroscientists, conclude that multitasking typically “doubles the amount of time it takes to do a task, and it usually at least doubles the number of mistakes.” Managers can encourage focus by helping team members with clear, one-at-a-time task prioritisation for deliverables, defining milestones that don’t overlap, and generally avoiding the trap of mistaking the urgent for the important.

Be purposeful about “gap” time during the work day, or slow periods over the course of the working year. Be deliberate about helping people pause and reenergise during down cycles or lulls in work activity. If there are no down cycles, work hard as a manager to create some.

Author Tony Schwartz suggests that managers understand work is not a marathon but ‘series of sprints’  that requires recovery and renewal time in between. It’s not the number of hours people work that matters, it’s the value they produce during the hours they work.

Practice empathy and compassion. It doesn’t cost anything to be kind, and the benefits for managers are great. Empathy and compassion significantly improve employee performance, engagement, and profitability. An Australian research project across 77 organisations, found that “the single greatest influence on profitability and productivity within an organisation…is the ability of leaders to spend more time and effort developing and recognising their people, welcoming feedback, including criticism, and fostering co-operation among staff.” Additionally, the research found that the ability of a leader to be compassionate – “to understand people’s motivators, hopes, and difficulties and to create the right support mechanism to allow people to be as good as they can be” – has the greatest correlation with profitability and productivity

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