Team stress can be induced by anything in an individual’s life, and it happens pretty often. We get obsessed with deadlines, personal events, etc., and this makes us panic! That is nothing to be scared of, as It is our body’s normal response to difficult situations.
However, when it comes to work-life and managing a team of colleagues, it is important to notice the signs of disruptive team stress and provide support in overcoming it. Most times, it is difficult to spot and might be uncomfortable just to ask – don’t worry, though, we have got a little guide that will help you out!
Table of Content
- What exactly is stress and team stress?
- Do an anonymous survey
- Encourage physical activity
- Look out for physical indicators
- Promote rest
- Talk it out
- Constant worry
- Boost Self-efficacy
What exactly is stress and team stress?
Imagine you will be doing a presentation in front of hundreds of people and it has to be perfect. Being put under such pressure fires up a tiny area of your brain which releases stress hormones. Then, you will feel your breathing get quicker, your heart beating faster, and your muscles getting tense.
It might feel nerve-wracking, but this is an incredibly useful boost your body does to itself! It is designed to make you that bit more fit to tackle the challenge facing you. Some also call it a ‘flight or fight response. Think of it that way: with your heart rate and breathing increasing, more oxygen-rich blood is going straight to your brain, so you can remember everything and avoid any speech errors during your presentation! Amazing!
When does it go away, though? Well, when the stress-inducing situation is over, your body should go back to normal. And this is where a problem might occur – what if you are stressing for something that doesn’t just end or go away?
If you are continuously stressed out, then the picture is not looking that great – the response is being dragged out and thus could create some unpleasant effects: irritability, problems with sleep, forgetfulness, etc. Some recent research has suggested chronic stress may not be that bad for your overall health if you don’t actively think it is (the power of the mind, wow!).
However, if a colleague is experiencing stress that is impacting their everyday life and work, you should spot it and help out as soon as possible.
So, here are 7 of our easy tips to spot disruptive stress in your team and manage it:
1. Do an anonymous survey
We know this idea might seem silly at first, but let us finish! It is always best to ask if you have any doubts, and we stand by that. However, not many people would feel comfortable discussing personal problems, which might be leading to stress with their manager or in a group meeting with the whole team.
It just doesn’t work that way – if the colleague is stressing out about something, they probably view it in an extremely negative light and feel embarrassed sharing.
Since our nature as people wants to be liked, few of us would communicate something that we sense is a personal failure or might make us look vulnerable.
The solution is simple! Your survey should be anonymous and enquire about stress levels, both stemming from work and personal life. Don’t ask about details and specific causes – this is only to get an idea of how stressed your colleagues would admit to being without exposing their identity.
2. Encourage physical activity
A tip as old as time – just like many other old and cliché things, it does work, though. According to Harvard Medical School, engaging in physical exercise introduces deepened breathing and relieves muscle tension and a decreased resting heart rate, which can be extremely helpful for stiff, stressed individuals.
It would be perfect for establishing a reoccurring team activity like hiking, playing a sport, or just taking a long walk in the park once a month.
The health benefits are fascinating, and team stress relief is promised. Taking care of your colleagues means they will feel more fulfilled and ready to take on challenges in their personal and work lives.
3. Look out for physical indicators
Backaches, neck pains, loss of appetite or extreme cravings can all be signs of stress. Do not jump to conclusions instantly but do make an effort to notice when a colleague is complaining about their back or head hurting constantly.
Other good indicators to look out for can be sudden changes in your coworkers’ behaviour, such as irritability, sudden lack of commitment, drastic change of appearance, etc. If you are suspicious of disruptive team stress, these would be great markers to lead you to the correct judgment.
However, please do take them with a grain of salt because people are naturally inclined to think the worst is going on. Try and analyse the full picture before deducing your colleague is stressed out due to a single headache or them simply changing hair colour.
4. Promote rest
If you recognise stress in your team, it would be your responsibility to help reduce it as a manager. And as simple as it seems, taking time off really does help. Did you know that people in the UK work the longest hours in Europe? This is not a good practice at all and can take a toll on emotional health and enforce any stressful situations resulting in a bad response.
The more tired one is, the easier it becomes for them to get knocked down. We strongly recommend you encourage your team to take that break or day off concerning this. Let them have an extra 15 minutes to themselves if you see they are feeling down. Let them have a bit of ‘me-time’ when you see they need it.
5. Talk it out
Good relationships are the key to a healthy lifestyle. And, as Oprah says, all we want is to be listened to, acknowledged, and validated. As previously mentioned, stressed coworkers may not like to discuss their weakness or personal struggle, and that is a-OK!
As a team leader, you must build a positive work culture, a safe place where communication between colleagues is effortless and feels comforting. The point is for colleagues to engage and collaborate and not necessarily share details from their personal lives with each other.
This can be a challenging task if you work for an organisation that constantly switches teams, as trust is built with time. Thus, groups of 2-5 people who work for a small enterprise and spend all their time together will most certainly become close friends as time passes, promoting great teamwork skills and becoming a well-balanced force to be tackled!
But if you have a new team on your hands, especially during the recent lockdown times, you will have to put some more effort in. Don’t worry; we do have your back.
Introduce weekly 1 to 1 session to meet up with everyone on your team and build the connection there. Then, take every free second to try and start up a casual conversation in your group chat! Have an allocated Team Time and let everyone talk about their day and play a fun TeamGames.
Following these steps, you are definitely working to reduce stress in your coworkers! Getting someone else’s perspective on life or just listening to a reassuring voice can be a helping hand in fighting stress. Moreover, identifying with more social groups has been linked to having better health habits!
What you can do as a leader is astonishing. If you are concerned and compassionate enough, you can foster a new social group your colleagues identify with, thus helping them out in health and stress management too. You can do it! We also know a particular magic box that can help you achieve that.
6. Constant worry
Whenever we are really stressed out and cannot identify the main stressors in our lives, there is an excellent possibility for anxiety symptoms. Even though, as the case with stress, anxiety is a standard and a pretty helpful reaction of the body, it can be disruptive if it starts getting in the way of everyday life.
For example, it is incredible that we feel worried before a big test because this internal incentive is to do good. Otherwise, people might not have been that focused and motivated in general.
However, anxiety can settle in and not go away, just like stress. In that case, constant worrying, irrational fear, anger, etc., can be observed. You are bound to notice such a change in a colleague’s behaviour, but sometimes it is not entirely clear how to interpret it.
Do not get angry back at them – instead, try to understand and think about the underlying issues your coworker may be facing, the team stress and how you can help out.
7. Boost Self-efficacy
A load of studies by social psychologists suggests that experiencing negative stress (the bad kind) has a lot to do with how we perceive ourselves. More specifically, it is down to how we rank our ‘Self-efficacy’!
This is an umbrella term for a person’s internal beliefs about how capable and in control he/she is. It turns out to be extremely important, as the leading cause of stress is feeling we are losing control over something significant.
If you think about it, it is valid for everyone – we all like to think we can control our lives to a certain extent and get comfort from knowing we can cope with challenges if they come our way. Nevertheless, if this perception is shattered (because hey, there are so many things that don’t depend on us at all!), then we are left feeling stressed for good.
What can you do for your team now that you have this precious piece of info? Make them feel in control as much as you can! Take away the unknown values from their workload, describe tasks and step by step solutions, let them know what the results following their actions are.
Closing the circle in this way will show your coworkers how helpful they indeed are and that they are capable of making an impact. With a little more confidence in themselves, fighting off the team stress will be a lot easier.
Times have been hard for a while now, and corporate teams need emotionally intelligent, communicative, and open leaders. Hopefully, this article helps you out in pin-pointing team stress in the workplace and dealing with it accordingly!
Do not forget that quickly jumping to conclusions may not be your best option – analyse situations and behaviours before taking general decisions. Reading the room properly is a trait of highly emotionally intelligent people, so why not try working on this quality with your team on the side? You can use KissTheFrogNOW to develop EQ skills, alongside many more.
And you can use it virtually as well! If in need of a refresher, take a look at our Virtual Teambuilding Guide.