What is stress and how can I help my team manage their stress? Firstly, stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A good level of stress will increase motivation and can give us that extra needed push for us to reach peak performance. As with most things in life, managing stress is a balancing act. When we allow stressors to build up and disrupt our lives, it can lead quickly to fatigue or a decline in our mental health. This is why it’s vital to maintain good practices surrounding mental health, but also be vigilant of some warning signs before stressors pile up.
At present, there is an overwhelming amount of stressors apparent in everyday life. With an onslaught of information about the ever evolving pandemic and the pressures of isolation, it’s no wonder that many are feeling overwhelmed. Though many offices have been distributed from head office for a while now, some of the initiatives to maintain social connection may have fallen to the wayside.
The road to good mental health begins with good management of diet, sleep and exercise. Get these building blocks right and you’ll have a good start to managing stress and continuing on the journey to good mental health. We’ve seen some HR teams introduce a different focus each week (nutrition, sleep, exercise etc) and share daily tips with their team.
Sleep is the foundation to which our day is built upon. To be active and functional, our brains need 8 hours of sleep every night to consolidate memories and get rid of useless information and to assist with REM sleep in the early morning. We need to experience that rejuvenating sleep that helps us process our day before midnight. If your brain can’t recalibrate overnight you’ll be left feeling all out of sorts and have issues focusing.
Exercise keeps our bodies active and healthy. There is a reason people say “healthy body, healthy mind” and that’s because exercise helps relieve tension and increase energy levels. That’s right, it’s not just the rush of endorphins after an exercise that will leave you feeling great, but the lasting impacts which leave you in a better mood.
What we put into your body is also what you get out of it. Having meals that are nutrient rich gives the brain fuel it needs to tackle complex issues and maintain focus. Try to swap some snacks for some fruits, nuts or veggies to keep up energy throughout the day.
We are seeing more and more teams working longer and longer hours while working from home. It’s easier for the lines between home and work to blur when they’re in the same place. HR has the opportunity to empower your team to manage their tasks and minimise the risk of burnout. Ideas to help your team include:
If you’re away from your office, it’s incredibly important that you manage your tasks to minimise the burnout factor. Particularly if your team is new to working remotely. At the office, it’s easy to break up tasks with a simple conversation with your neighbour or by going and making yourself a cup of tea. The benefits of these interactions and activities can be quite powerful. If your team members are getting up to have a quick break, they’re stretching their legs and moving around, and if they’re having a laugh with their colleagues, they’re helping their head by giving their brain some much needed time off.
Be sure to break up your day with regular intervals and get in that much needed movement that your body requires. Also, maybe set aside some time to have a quick chat with your teammates before or after a team meeting, these social interactions are important and help foster a great team relationship.
As we mentioned before, routine is an incredibly important part of maintaining mental health. Assist your team members with their journey by respecting their boundaries with work, if they have set hours that they have specified that they can be contacted in, don’t try and speak to them outside of those. If you’ve noticed that your team members are working outside their usual hours and are overextending themselves, it may be time to have a conversation where you set out expectations. Assure them that their work and time are valuable, but they need to balance it with looking after themselves.
As business leaders, the best thing we can do here is to help lead by example and communicate often and with purpose to your team members.
The best way to understand how your team members are managing is to speak with them. Organise a regular catch up meeting with your team members and have a structured agenda that you can refer to. Ask about their goals, how they’re progressing with their work but also how they’re finding the current situation. Ensure that you action follow up items on the back of this meeting, accountability is key here.
As many teams are distributed, it can be difficult to try and get an accurate read of how they’re mentally coping with the challenges. If you notice that usually chatty team members are being quiet, or the more introverted team members are asking for more time to chat, it can be a sign that they need some additional support. Naturally, during times of intense stress, everyone responds differently, now more than ever is a great time to be extra vigilant and take time to care for your team and peers.
Though check-ins may assist, it may also be wise to initiate a wellbeing check-in. As a response to the COVID-19 crisis, intelliHR has created our free Essentials Platform which includes a wellbeing check-in. This survey can be pulsed out to your entire organisation so that you can understand what your people may be struggling with and where you should dedicate more time and resources.