Almost all businesses use teams as part of their workforce. Compared to individuals, teams can potentially do more than just the aggregate work of its members. Through synergy, teams have the advantage when it comes to problem-solving and coming up with creative ideas. However, teams are increasingly being put under pressure by our hectic modern lifestyle. More than ever, stress and anxiety are creeping into workforces and wreaking havoc.
Around 53 percent of the international workforce reports being closer to burnout now than five years ago. Left unabated, stress and anxiety will lead to lower job satisfaction, higher turnover rates, and poorer performance. Hence, team leaders must learn how to properly manage their teams so that team members can minimize stress and to focus on their work.
How Stressors Can Impact Teams
A certain level of stress is inherent in work. Many necessary elements of work can cause significant stress, including the following:
- mistakes during a task
- heavy workload
In small amounts, stress is beneficial. It stimulates action and helps push people towards reaching their deadlines. Stress can galvanize teams into action, giving them an extra push to reach for their goals.
However, stress can also be harmful to people if left unabated. When under stress, the brain shuts off some higher-thinking functions, making it harder to make objective decisions. Teams under stress may fail to use evidence properly and take mental shortcuts during analysis. Overall, stressed teams may make poorer decisions, or they might even be unable to come up with a unified decision in time.
Stress also reduces the ability to manage conflict. When problems arise, stressed teams are more likely to generate resentment and to resort to personal attacks. Communication can break down. Increased levels of conflict can destroy team unity and make it harder to coordinate with each other, further reducing performance.
Finally, stress has several physiological effects. Chronic anxiety can put a strain on the cardiovascular system, making employees more prone to heart disease and high blood pressure. Mental health also takes a hit, as anxiety can increase the risk of depression and other psychological disorders. All in all, stressed teams lead to sicker employees.
Fortunately, there are a variety of approaches to dealing with stress as individuals. Team leaders must encourage these practices so that their team members can cope with stress and anxiety.
Rest is one powerful antidote against stress. It might seem counterproductive, but taking short breaks can lead to better performance than letting people work continuously. Team leaders should actively encourage members to take some time to drink water or to chat with workmates. However, team leaders should also make sure that members are not slacking off and that they return to work in full force after taking breaks.
Another useful habit is exercise, which counters many of the harmful effects of stress on health. It also increases blood circulation to organs such as the brain, leading to better decision making. It boosts energy levels and can lift moods. Leaders can promote activity by encouraging members to take short walks during their breaks. Some teams even have members take planks daily before they start work!
Good Leadership Practices
Team leadership also plays a role when it comes to promoting or preventing stress and anxiety. Leaders should be aware that their actions can determine how well their team responds to stress.
For instance, the “tough love” philosophy that encourages a hardline approach to leadership may only add to the stress experienced by the team. Instead, leaders should consider a leadership approach that banks more on empathy and understanding. When people feel they are understood, they feel a sense of social connection with the team. This social support system is something that they can count on for support during difficult times.
A common misconception is that stress management is something people cannot learn. In reality, training in proper stress management techniques can empower teams to cope with stress in healthy ways. These training sessions also tend to promote cooperation among team members, leading to stronger team identity. Leaders should consider holding workshops and training on stress management for their members.
Finally, leaders should respect boundaries. Sending emails early in the morning and requiring an immediate reply is a guaranteed way to make employees feel stressed. Despite the prevalence of communication technology, leaders should recognize that employees need to disconnect from the workplace from time to time. Leaders should encourage employees to develop their life outside of work.
With mutual respect and understanding for their members, leaders can form teams that stand firm against stress and anxiety.