By Barbara Mitchell
Q: My team has to meet a lot of high-pressure deadlines. Are there ways I can help them manage their stress levels?
A: First, take time to analyze why your deadlines are inducing stress. Are they realistic? Do you control them? If you do control your deadlines, consider backing them off a bit to allow your team more time to do good work.
If your deadlines are set by others and you can’t influence them, then I suggest you carefully monitor your team and watch for burnout—both in yourself and your staff.
Even if you can’t change the things that cause your team stress, you can help them cope with it. Acknowledge that the deadlines you are dealing with are difficult, and encourage your team members to come to you when they feel particularly burdened. Just talking about stress can sometimes relieve it.
Give your employees permission to take breaks, including getting out of the office briefly during the day. Fresh air can clear the mind and reduce stress. If the weather does’t permit going outside, a walk around the office or a run up the stairs—anything that gets people up and moving—can make a difference. To promote good health, if you have any influence over what foods are served at meetings or what snacks are available in your vending machines, add fruit and low-sugar options to the mix.
Give your employees permission to take breaks, including getting out of the office briefly during the day. Fresh air can clear the mind and reduce stress.
Some organizations bring in massage therapists one day a month to help relieve stress; others sponsor yoga classes. A new trend is to incorporate mindfulness into the workplace. A recent book by Scott Eblin, Overworked and Overwhelmed, defines mindfulness as “the awareness that arises by paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Mindfulness is a great stress reliever.
If your organization has an employee assistance program, it may offer resources and strategies for reducing stress that you can incorporate into your way of doing business.
Finally, make sure you don’t inadvertently add to your team’s stress. Don’t check in every 10 minutes to assess their progress and remind them of deadlines they certainly are aware of. Don’t send late-night emails and expect an immediate response. And don’t intrude on their personal time during off-hours.