Future of Work — 8 November 2018

Managing stress at work: how to lead and work better in teams

Managing Stress at Work

Half of us will experience uncomfortable levels of stress at work. A recent study found that workplace stress negatively affects our home lives, and research shows stress kills creativity. So, how can you manage and mitigate the effects of stress in the workplace, and ensure you – and your team – remain focused?

Since we’re in the middle of International Stress Awareness Week, we’ve teamed up with professors, occupational psychologists and other experts to bring you actionable advice for managing stress at work. In part one of our two-part series, we’re bringing you advice on reducing stress when working in teams. In part two we’re providing you with some useful takeaways on how to recognise the signs of stress and stay in control.

Focus on the positive and reframe difficult situations

“When working in teams it’s too easy to fixate on the negative in any situation and make yourself stressed. Try to focus on the positive traits of your colleagues and their potential for contributions to alleviate that stress. For example, if they are excellent organisers or highly creative, focus on that and use their strengths to deliver better projects.  If that isn’t possible, re-frame the situation as a learning opportunity. Every challenge is a chance for growth.”
Lynne Kennette, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Durham College, Canada 


Get to know your team personally

“Working in teams can create a high-stress environment. To combat that stress you need to be open to collaborate at work. The best way to do that is to get to know people, rather than the roles they fulfil at work. By doing this you can ensure you’re building effective teams, by bringing the right personalities together on projects. If you do that, you will grow as a team and find it easier to work together. ”
Sir Cary Cooper, Professor of Organisational Psychology & Health, University of Manchester and co-author of ‘How to Deal with Stress


Balance delegated work with autonomy

“A lot of the root causes of stress can be traced back to how work and jobs are organised. If we have too much work and too little decision-making power, it’s a shortcut to feeling overwhelmed and stressed. You must ensure that you keep an eye out for the signs of job-related stress while monitoring how team members are coping with their workload. Ensure your team has meaningful work and that they understand the value they bring. Balance delegated workload with autonomy and try to avoid micromanaging. Then, when you do delegate, make sure you do it fairly.”
Dr Richard MacKinnon, Occupational Psychologist and Managing Director at WorkLifePsych Ltd


Train your emotional intelligence 

“I think one of the core problems we face managing stress at work is that we have too many line managers or leaders who have risen in the ranks through being great at their job, without necessarily being great people managers. Emotional intelligence is a difficult skill to master but it all begins with recognising changes in others to identify the symptoms of stress. Take the time to understand your team and their behaviour, if things change or seem highly unusual then the chances are they are stressed. Connect with them, show them you recognise their challenges and work together to alleviate the pressure when you can.”
Sir Cary Cooper, Professor of Organisational Psychology & Health,  University of Manchester and co-author of ‘How to Deal with Stress


For more information on managing stress, check out our other articles in our culture section.

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