Stress is one of the greatest productivity busters, costing American businesses $300 billion per year in lost productivity. The World Health Organization states that stress creates an unhealthy organization, reducing team productivity in a competitive market and even threatening the organization’s very survival.
There are times when stress is necessary, but sometimes we become overwhelmed. I have a tendency to become so engaged in managing or contributing to an important proposal or project that it overwhelms other aspects of my life. I go to bed only to see my latest writing or reviewing project swimming behind my closed eyelids. It can be hard to turn off the stress when I hear the email notification chiming on my laptop or iPhone. Great ideas seem to pop up in the middle of the night making it even harder to relax and sleep.
You do yourself and your team no favors by feeling stressed and sleep-deprived. When you are on edge, it permeates the team dynamic, making you less patient, more prone to (inadvertently) insulting others, and reducing productivity. So, how can you be actively engaged and productive without getting stressed out? Here are six methods that work for me.
Yoga: Yoga is a great way to reduce stress, increase flexibility and regain composure – all highly beneficial to the harried proposal or project professional, especially during times of increased competition, fiscal constraints, and uncertainty. You don’t need to roll out a yoga mat in order to relax. Just take 10 minutes at your desk and try these proposal yoga poses and meditations. Invite your teammates to join in. Stress will decrease, and you will be ready to take on the next challenge.
Food: One of the ways teams reward themselves– or force everyone to stay in the same room– is with food. Consuming too much caffeine, sugar, salt, carbs and grease makes everyone feel
sluggish and testy. Make a pact with your team that you will share healthy meals and snacks. At least then you won’t put on the proposal or project 3 pounds around your waistline, and you demonstrate that you care about your colleagues.
Scents: Manage the mood through scents. Make sure no one has sensitivities, and then invest in an essential oil diffuser with calming scents such as lavender, grapefruit, or chamomile, when needed, or try invigorating scents like peppermint or lemon when the team needs a boost. If the team does not agree to this odor-based approach, use the scents at home to reduce stress or to wake up.
Downtime: Yes, we are under severe schedule constraints, but working non-stop becomes unproductive. Set some firm times to stop working and let people go home to relax and/or exercise. Promise no emails after a certain time of night so team members won’t be watching their mailbox. Allow flexible schedules within reason so the team can find time to exercise, see their family, walk the dog, or do whatever is important to them.
Face Time: Related to downtime is a ban on face time. I have experienced team dynamics where team members feel compelled to stay in the room even when their tasks are completed. They don’t want to go home early and risk the wrath of the manager. Tell the team that efficiency pays off. Once they are done for the day, they can leave.
Laughter: Teams that laugh together work well together. Laughter affects the mind and the immune system in positive ways through its stress-reducing properties. Taking your mind off work for a few minutes to share a laugh lets everyone take a break and then get back to be productive. It also bonds the team together through shared humor.
Stress is a fact of life. We need stress in order to perform or achieve certain goals. However, managing team stress levels effectively is key to continued peak performance.
by Lisa Pafe