Work consistently remains one of the top sources of stress for people in the U.S. Whether it’s workload, time management, long hours, or general dissatisfaction with your role, the list of workplace stressors drags on. It can feel difficult to pinpoint what the root of the problem is.
For that reason, we often take a band-aid approach. We try to adjust to and get comfortable with our workplace stress, rather than figuring out its underlying cause.
By taking actionable steps toward pinpointing and addressing the cause of your team’s stress, you can set a great example — and then put tools and workflows in place to help fix it.
1. Poor communication
In a study by Wrike, poor communication was the top cause of stress for teams. It seems silly that communication, such a basic part of life, is such a stressor. But it’s tough to get negative feedback — and it’s equally hard to tell your teammates they’re doing something wrong.
For this very reason, Kim Scott started Radical Candor, a movement to arm team leaders with ways to approach tough conversations. Radical Candor is when you directly challenge someone who you care about. In her book, Scott suggests that people steer clear of both aggression and passive aggression. Her matrix illustrates how you can practice and think about the ways you’re delivering and receiving feedback.
While taking time to practice and encourage radical candor with your team is a great way to ease workplace stress that comes with poor communication, you might also need some tactical tools to help your team communicate, whether you’re sitting next to each other or working remotely halfway across the globe.
Tools to fix poor communication
- Slack. Slack is the go-to chat app for quick questions and one-off conversations. Just be sure to give your team guidelines on when to use it, so they don’t feel constantly interrupted.
- Google Hangouts Chat. If your team uses G Suite for document sharing, email, or video conferencing, Hangouts Chat is a great way to add more communication and keep it all together.
- Flock. Flock keeps conversations clear and organized by quoting threads beneath replies, similar to an online forum.
2. Constant context switching
Feeling like a chicken with your head cut off has become the new norm at work. We’re constantly interrupted and forced to switch from one tool to the next — whether it’s email, Slack, or any other app.
In a study by Front, 89 percent of people reported switching contexts while they work more than five times every day. This constant movement from one task or tool to another makes it hard to focus and takes up valuable work time. It’s a cycle of stress.
How much of a problem is context switching for you and your team? Here’s a handy worksheet to track how often you switch contexts throughout the day.
Tools to help with context switching
- Front. Front brings email, live chats, social media, SMS texts, and apps into one collaborative inbox. You can edit information from apps like Salesforce or JIRA and work together using internal comments in your inbox.
- Wimi. Wimi gives teams access to messages, docs, timelines, and video calls all in one platform, so it’s easy to keep data up to date and work together.
- Notion. Notion is an intuitive, document-style workspace where you can take notes, build spreadsheets, assign tasks, plan project timelines, and more. You can connect 50+ apps like Google Sheets, Twitter, and more.
3. Deadline dread
When you’re a fast-paced team, hitting deadlines while delivering quality work can be a big source of stress. For some people, deadlines are a great motivator to start and accomplish difficult tasks, but for others, trying to stick to deadlines only brings anxiety.
One way to fix this is by teaching your team to prioritize better. JotForm CEO Aytekin Tank gives a great framework for scheduling priorities, rather than simply thinking about limited time and all the tasks you have to complete. He recommends using the Eisenhower Matrix to focus on the work with the biggest impact.
Erase the fear of looming deadlines for your team by giving them planning tools, so they can set deadlines they can realistically meet.
Tools to fix deadline dread
- Asana. Asana gives your team everything you need to stay focused and hit deadlines. You can assign tasks to teammates, set deadlines, and follow team progress. It’s a planning tool, calendar, and to-do list in one platform.
- WorkingOn. WorkingOn gives your team easy status reporting, so projects stay moving. When you’re done with one task, you can check it off so everyone’s in sync and knows what to do next.
- TeamWeek. TeamWeek gives your team a flexible platform for planning and task management. You can build Gantt charts, timelines, and roadmaps to check off tasks, set milestones, and hit your goals.
4. General life stress
Sometimes your team’s stress might not originate at work — but the atmosphere in your workplace can certainly amplify it. By being deliberate about discussing and managing stress in the office, you can set an example of positivity for your team that they can model outside of work too.
This might mean taking 10 minutes on Tuesdays for a guided meditation session or instituting a policy that allows for mental health days, not for travel or vacation, just to stay home and care for yourself.
Tools to help with general stress
- Headspace. Headspace is a popular app for guided meditation and anxiety management, useful for life at the office and in any difficult situation you encounter.
- Bonusly. Bonusly is an upbeat employee recognition platform that allows your team to reward each other for upholding team values and doing great work. It adds positivity to your workplace and reminds everyone that it’s important to take a moment to thank each other.
- EmpowerWork. Sometimes an anonymous opinion is the best way to navigate a tough situation. EmpowerWork is a text crisis line for workers to help manage anything from harassment to asking for a raise.
“It’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s the way you carry it.” — Lou Holtz
Coach and former college football star Lou Holtz says it well. Often, it’s not that you can’t handle stress — it’s that you don’t have the right workflows and tools in place to prevent it. If your team is feeling stressed, try finding the cause. Then use one of these tools to fix it at its root.