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With long-term stress-related illness on the rise, it is important that talk of stress is not dismissed within your team.
Written by Clara Abson
4 Minute read
18 April 2019
“I’m so stressed!” We might hear the murmurs of our team constantly talking about how stressed they are, but is this being taken seriously or has this exclamation become the norm in the workplace with some using the word stress as just synonymous with busy?
Unfortunately, our colleagues are likely to hide their real workplace stress, as they may think it makes them look unable to do their job. They are concerned it will stop their colleagues from listening to their ideas or that they will be looked over for promotion. The reality is that keeping it to yourself will ultimately impact performance and wellbeing.
A 2018 workplace survey by perkbox.com shows that 1 in 5 UK workers experience moderate to high levels of work-related stress and only 9% of UK workers claim to never experience work-related stress. With long-term stress-related illness on the rise, it is important that talk of stress is not dismissed within your team. Remember, if people hate going to work, they will eventually leave!
Stress can be triggered by lots of different things, a looming deadline or an argument with a colleague, or it may be the consequence of a build-up of pressures over time. Don’t forget, everybody is different, be careful not to measure signs of stress in other people against your own reactions to things.
Take a look at the list below and see if you recognise any of these symptoms in your team:
♦ Smoking or drinking more than normal
♦ Loss of sense of humour
♦ Eating too many unhealthy foods
♦ Low self-esteem
♦ Having no appetite
♦ Avoiding contact with others
♦ Complaining about lack of sleep
♦ Difficulty making decisions
♦ Losing their temper quickly
♦ Negative and unhelpful thought patterns
♦ Constantly worrying about things
♦ Lack of motivation and commitment
It’s no surprise that the survey identified long working hours as the top stress trigger in work, but second and third on the list were ‘others' work performance’ and ‘my own work performance’ which shows that not only are people worried about their own performance but they are also worried about their team's performance in work too.
Stress can make people feel isolated but by tackling stress as a team you can create an inclusive and supportive environment where the burden is shared or avoided altogether. Try these 3 T’s to bring your team together:
It may seem like an obvious one, but get a regular slot in the diary and take the time for a weekly team meeting. The length of the meeting can vary week to week depending on what you choose to discuss but use this as an opportunity to give everyone a voice.
For a quick catch up try going around the whole group and asking everyone to give a brief overview of their workload for the week and if they need any support or if they have the capacity to offer support to the rest of the team. Open conversations like this will help the team have a better understanding of what everyone else is doing.
Share best practices for prioritising to help your team distinguish between what is urgent and what is important, through using the Eisenhower Matrix. Encourage discussions amongst the group to help the understanding of this concept and release some unnecessary workload pressures. If some people seem hesitant to talk about an issue that is bothering them then give everyone the opportunity to add things to the agenda anonymously and then encourage open discussion in the meeting.
Investing in training for your team will help to boost morale and make them feel valued and supported.
Start off with short sessions you can fit into a meeting slot; watch an inspirational Ted talk and then discuss as a group. Ask what training they would find beneficial for helping manage and decrease stress and then bring a trainer in-house to run just a morning session or a full day for the whole team.
Take some time out and plan a lunch break as a team. Stop the work chat and talk about your weekend plans or upcoming holidays, your team may realise they have more in common with each other than they thought. Take it in turns to suggest somewhere to go for lunch or pick a favourite restaurant for an evening meal instead.
There are 100s of ideas for free team building activities that you can try. Do something creative or split into smaller groups and do a fun challenge for an incentive, anything to get your team interacting and talking. Make sure the team managers are included as equal players in these tasks to help break down any barriers.
A strong team enjoys working together and shares a bond. When a team is shown how to communicate effectively, people are given the confidence to reveal hidden problems which can be solved together. Building up trust and an understanding of each other can also help diminish stress caused by personal conflicts.
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