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6 Stupid Simple Ways for Project Managers and Teams to Temper Stress

By Maggie Winkelmann:

Stress. We all have it. Whether positive or negative, stress is a driving biological factor. Our body produces hormones and endorphins that make us more alert and help us respond quickly to problems. But when stress isn’t managed, it can also lead to irrational thoughts, frustration, and fractured relationships.

Stress in the workplace can occur with micromanagement, inadequate training, a me-first mentality and so much more. Project Managers have a duty to manage their personal stress and help mitigate team stress, before productivity decreases and team members reach their threshold and submit their notice.

So how can stress be harnessed to drive the team toward excellence rather than crushing their spirits and illuminating the path to the exit? Here are 6 stupid-simple tips.

1. Plan. And then plan some more

Inevitability plans change. But does this mean that you stop planning and just wing it? Heck no! It means that you plan with the anticipation of change.

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Here at the Branch, through countless campaigns, successes and some failures, we have learned what can most commonly disrupt campaign plans. As a result, we’ve created templates for campaigns, content, marketing automation, etc. that outline everything needed to complete projects successfully.

Campaign planning includes Account Strategists and subject matter experts that can speak to time estimates and dependent tasks that could pose a risk to project completion. We have project backlogs that outline the priority of tasks so SMEs can juggle the needs of our multitude of clients. And we have Project Managers that identify a delay and construct a detour to keep the campaigns on track.

Having a well thought-out plan and anticipating risks is critical to reducing workplace stress and setting your team and clients up for success.

2. Keep the lines of communication open

Creating an environment that fosters open communication can reduce stress. Team meetings, one-on-ones, and daily stand-ups allow team members to share what they are working on and what is needed from their teammates and clients to carry out campaign and project plans. They offer opportunities to talk about stress without encouraging negativity.

By actively listening to the needs of the team, being courteous and asking clarifying questions, Project Managers emulate strong stress management techniques, while supporting and encouraging others.

3. Encourage well-being practices

Stress is often dismissed as a normal working condition. However, the American Institute of Stress estimates that workplace stress costs U.S. industry more than $300 billion a year in absenteeism, turnover, diminished productivity and insurance costs. To ensure your business doesn’t contribute to that statistic, your company culture should encourage practices that contribute to employees’ physical, mental and emotional health, such as:

  • Exercise – Encourage daily walks or walking meetings, purchase stationary bikes equipped with table tops for laptops or offer reimbursement or stipends for gym memberships.
  • Eating right and drinking water – If you provide snacks for the staff or have a corporate cafeteria, keep it healthy with organic, processed-free foods. Gift your staff with company-branded stainless steel water bottles to encourage more trips to the water cooler.
  • Taking short breaks – Make it mandatory for employees to give their brain a rest from work-related activities from time to time. Have activities available where coworkers can socialize, have some fun and improve their working relationships.
  • Flexible working arrangements – If it’s appropriate for your work environment, relieve the stress of a commute by offering employees the opportunity to work from home once a week. Offer a range of work hours so early birds can be productive at peak times while night owls can see the benefit of some extra Zs.
  • Practicing gratitude – Acknowledge the actions that help your business and exemplify your company values. This leaves employees with a feeling of pride and accomplishment, rather than focusing on the difficulties of the task itself.

People want to work for companies that care. Show them that you value them as a whole person and not just as an employee.

4. Learn to say ‘no’ or ‘not now’

When a client reaches out with an urgent need or a new project, the desire to please or the allure of extra money is hard to resist. But overextending isn’t fair to the team or the client. Take a moment to review the current workload of the team and analyze the needs of the new ask. How many man-hours will it take? What team members need to be involved? What tasks will need to shift to accommodate this ask?

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Perhaps the new request can be exchanged with something that is currently in queue for the client or the deadlines and budget can be adjusted to accommodate the additional needs. It’s better to say no than to agree and fail to deliver. It is a responsibility of Project Managers and Account Strategists to meet the needs of the clients while maintaining an acceptable workload for the internal team. Don’t let scope creep become a constant stressor.

5. Work on conflict-resolution skills

Differences in opinion, poor time management and lack of accountability are just a few things that can lead to conflict in the workplace. Project Managers should flex their conflict-resolution muscles to temper these frustrations and prevent these conflicts from happening in the future.

Listen to the individuals involved and find the source of the conflict. Often times it is deeper than how it is presented. For example, Mary expresses frustration when Joe doesn’t meet the deadline of a dependent task. Now Mary will fall behind on her work. Did Joe have everything he needed to get the task done on time? Were there issues with communication? Was he trained in the tools needed to complete the work? Getting to the core of the issue is vital to resolving the conflict and reducing tensions as Joe and Mary continue to work together.

6. Prioritize team building

We’ve all been in situations where we take on additional work because we believe we will do it better or faster than if we delegate it to a team member. But this doesn’t allow the team member to learn and grow. True collaboration is a learned practice.

As a Project Manager, one of the most enlightening professional experiences I had was through a discussion of individual strengths analysis results. I learned how my team complimented one another and was alerted to team members that had fundamental differences that may require more attention on my part. It was an exercise that forged a connection that allowed the team to flourish because we knew how to communicate most effectively with one another. A team that trusts one another is essential to reducing workplace stress.

It is inevitable that teams will encounter stress. And while stress-management is not one-size-fits-all, planning, open communication and having fun together are a few sure-fire ways to ensure your team is happier and more productive.

Have more simple-stupid ways to alleviate workplace stress? Tweet us @RedBranch and let us know!