Tuning into the stress factors within your team

Posted on: June 24, 2016 at 5:09 pm, in

Part 1 of a Series of Articles looking at Stress Management Strategies in the Workplace.

There is significant evidence to demonstrate the impact and cost of stress absence on organisations.   The HSE estimates that nearly 13 million working days are lost each year to conditions related to stress, anxiety and depression.  Over the years, when troubleshooting within organisations I have discovered that many challenging situations within teams have stress as its root.

Stress may or may not be caused at work. In fact it tends to be caused by a number of elements and pressures building up on an individual that are probably a mix of personal and work factors, but the fact remains, as Managers we have a responsibility to recognise it in our Teams and minimise the causes.

Ensuring you have strong policies and strategies in Stress Management can help you retain valuable staff, reduce overall absenteeism, meet your legal requirements, and avoid costly investigations and litigation.  It can ensure that your team remains motivated and with consistently high energy levels, build their confidence and, last but most importantly, increase productivity.

And unfortunately, it’s the simple stuff that often gets overlooked, but needs to be refreshed most.  What seems like common sense or fundamental can often be taken for granted.  What these articles will offer is a reminder and insight into some of the fundamental things we can do to underpin the wellbeing of our team, build their resilience and underpin our success.

What can you, as People Manager, do to help?

Firstly, hone your antenna and read between the lines.  Stress can manifest in many ways; it can be obvious with people becoming irritable or uncommunicative, or less obvious:

  • A recent example involved a team member over-reacting about a small issue that didn’t really matter in the greater scheme of things, but clearly had been the straw that broke the camel’s back for the individual concerned. However the Manager missed this signs of underlying stress building up and underreacted, leaving the employee feeling undervalued and ignored. The employee went off sick and they were off for almost 6 months before the situation was resolved.   That caused enormous disruption within the team, with the workload having to be re-distributed and shifts needing to be covered.  Grievances were lodged, and a great deal of management time was invested in investigating and then defusing the situation.  All this complex impact and additional work could have been avoided if the manager had spotted the signs.

Stress can be produced by too much work, but also through a lack of variety. Often called the ‘treadmill effect’ it can be hard to spot where it is caused by boredom.   Ensure that you share work around fairly and give individuals enough variety to prevent this happening:

  • Review the team’s tasks lists regularly and compare them with one another – are they all working the hours they should, or are some doing the same job but working much longer hours? Compare, contrast and balance those workloads based on the facts.  If someone is taking too long, are they managing their time badly?  Do they feel that putting in those extra hours is required for some reason?  Look under the skin till you really know what they are doing and support their planning so you are agreed on what is expected.


Don’t allow people to over commit themselves and make sure they are taking their regular breaks and holidays. Even when they don’t feel they need to.  If they feel they can’t take their holidays, then chances

Next time: Developing your Emotional Intelligence to improve Stress Management Strategies

#Stress Management#Wellbeing #Performance Improvement