This era of disruption, innovation and increased global competition means that businesses arguably endure more demands on their time, budget and human resources than ever. Some of the stress in organizations is inherent to today’s market conditions and customer expectations; however, leaders must constantly be wary of self-inflicted wounds. Here, we mean the kind of sustained but avoidable workplace stress that demotivates teams, causes unwanted turnover, reduces productivity and decreases profitability. Here are six strategies that can help guard against self-inflicted stress in a team or entire organization.
These tactics may seem overly simple in principle, but they indeed work when used consistently:
1. Focus On Clear and Concise Goals
When everyone is on board and heading in the right direction, unnecessary stress is eliminated. This concept is brought to pixelated life in “Finding Nemo.” With only two words, “swim down,” Nemo focused the attentions and efforts of hundreds of frantic fish on a clear, unequivocal goal: escaping a one-way trip to the seafood section of the grocery store. The unified force of Nemo and his brethren broke the line, released the net and saved them all a fate braised in butter and garnished with lemon. It is a wonderfully animated example of the motivating power of clear and concise goals, and their ability to turn chaos into results.
2. Use Time-Blocking Strategies
Multitasking kills productivity. Though developed as a means of combating the ever-increasing complexity of life, multitasking often results in perpetual oscillations between starting and stopping without ever completing a single task. Time-blocking, on the other hand, allows employees to start, focus and finish. Time-blocking involves grouping daily tasks into a handful of categories and assigning each category a time to be worked on. Time-blocking restores an employee’s control over their working hours, and promotes efficiency and proper prioritization.
3. Show Appreciation
Showing your appreciation is the easiest and least costly way to reduce employee stress. Unfortunately, it is also one of the easiest things to forget during hectic times. If showing appreciation isn’t a natural strength, schedule a reminder in your calendar.
4. Be Spontaneous, and Have Fun Periodically
Periodic random activities like a “make your own ice cream” party, impromptu lunch at a restaurant, themed gift cards, office Olympics, etc. are great ways to create fun energy and break the tension in an environment that is normally stressful. When planning events, be sure to consider the demographics and gastrointestinal sensitivities of your team.
5. Implement the “Forced 40”
When your team is consistently working more than 50 hours a week, forcing them to only work 40 for one week will rejuvenate their spirits and bring motivation back to the team. When elite athletes train for maximum performance, periods of rest play as important a role as periods of pushing one’s limits. When a muscle is broken down and stretched to its limits, it is through rest that the fibers are able to adapt and grow stronger for the next challenge. Consider the forced 40 as a recharge week. Now that we are entering the new era of personal digital assistants and constant availability, our responsibility to make sure our employees take the necessary down time is becoming more important.
6. Build Awareness and Solutions Around Major Time Wasters
Educate employees on solutions to time-wasters by offering training or fun seminars on the following top 20 topics. These topics also foster productive conversations for team meetings or retreats:
- External time-wasters: Telephone interruptions, meetings, visitors, socializing, lack of information, excessive paperwork, communication breakdown, lack of policies and procedures, lack of competent personnel and red tape
- Internal time-wasters: Procrastination, failure to delegate, unclear objectives, failure to set priorities, crisis management, failure to plan, poor scheduling, lack of self discipline, attempting to do too much at once and lack of relevant skills.
Keith Kefgen and James Houran are the CEO and managing director of Aethos Consulting Group, a hospitality-focused human capital advisory. Kefgen can be contacted at [email protected] and Houran can be reached at [email protected].