How to Maintain Productive Stress Levels in Yourself and Your Team

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New Zealanders are currently facing a number of challenges in this volatile environment. Never mind the economy, the recent flooding and cyclone (and its ongoing structural, social, and psychological aftermath) has drained energy, time, attention, and resources from business as usual, and the shortage of talented people has made it more difficult for firms to meet their staffing needs. At the same time, it's important for individuals and teams to maintain productive stress levels, as stress can impact mental and physical health and lead to decreased productivity. (And, of course, just being decent human beings. I’m focusing on workplace productivity because that’s what I do but the decency thing I hope goes with saying. That said, I said it).

I’m going to overview the challenges faced by firms and the importance of maintaining productive stress levels - to get on top of them before they get on top of you. The recent climate catastrophes created disruptions to business operations and increased stress levels for individuals and teams. The shortage of talented people has made it more difficult for firms to meet their staffing needs, leading to increased pressure and workloads for existing employees. The volatile environment can create uncertainty and add to existing stress levels. It's important for both individuals and teams to maintain productive stress levels, as stress can impact mental and physical health and lead to decreased productivity. Some of the effects of stress on individuals and teams include:


  • Decreased motivation and engagement
  • Increased absenteeism and turnover
  • Decreased creativity and problem-solving skills
  • Decreased work quality and productivity


By proactively addressing these potential effects, individuals and teams can maintain their health and productivity, and better navigate the challenges faced by New Zealanders.

If this sounds heavy, here's a pic of our new puppy Toby Batman:

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I’ll cover all this in broad terms shortly but the key takeaway in this newsletter is a little technique that I’ve found incredibly powerful in recent years, both personally and professionally. It wasn't put together with the floods in mind but it suits this time well. I include it in several workshops I run. The 'Sustainable Stress' 3-Question technique is summarised in this infographic at the start of this newsletter.

This mission of this monthly newsletter is to capture and distribute what we at The People Engagement Experts have picked up that passes as wisdom in a form that is directly practical and useful. What trainers like me might call 'takeaways'. Things like infographics, checklists, and templates. Books, presentations and training courses are great (as an author, speaker & trainer, I would say that) but most days they're a bit much and people have work to do. This newsletter will feature one short-form tool each month. This month, it’s the 'Sustainable Stress' 3-questions technique above.

Stress is a normal part of life and can occur in response to various situations, including work, relationships, and events such as the recent flooding and cyclone. While some stress is normal and can even be helpful in motivating us to complete tasks, chronic stress can have a negative impact on our mental and physical health. Chronic stress can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, irritability, and difficulty sleeping, among others. The stressor aftermath of the floods is going to remain long after the waters recede.

In the workplace, stress can be caused by a variety of factors, including heavy workloads, tight deadlines, workplace conflicts, and the recent flooding and talent shortages. The current volatile environment can also contribute to stress and uncertainty, as employees may worry about their job security, the future of their firm, and other work-related concerns.

It's important to recognise when stress levels are becoming problematic and take steps to manage it. By doing so, individuals and teams can improve their mental and physical health, boost their productivity and creativity, and better navigate the challenges they are facing. This can also benefit the overall health and success of the firm.

Self-care is an important aspect of managing stress levels and is crucial for maintaining both mental and physical health. Taking breaks throughout the day, even just for a few minutes, can help to reduce stress and recharge the mind. This can involve activities such as taking a walk, reading, or engaging in a hobby.

Mindfulness and relaxation techniques can be effective in reducing stress and promoting mental well-being. This can include practices such as meditation, deep breathing, and yoga. These activities can help individuals to focus on the present moment and release pent-up tension and stress.

Setting boundaries and prioritising tasks is another effective strategy for managing stress levels. This involves setting realistic expectations and creating a manageable to-do list. By focusing on the most important tasks and delegating or postponing less critical ones, individuals can avoid feeling overwhelmed and reduce stress.

Physical activity can play an important role in reducing stress levels and improving overall health. Regular exercise can help to release tension, improve mood, and promote better sleep, which can all help to reduce stress levels. Whether it's through structured exercise such as going to the gym or a more relaxed activity such as taking a walk, incorporating physical activity into daily routines can be beneficial.

Open and effective communication is key in managing stress levels within teams. Encouraging active listening, where individuals listen and respond to each other's concerns and needs, can help to build trust and reduce stress. Regular team check-ins can also provide opportunities for team members to discuss their concerns and provide support to each other.

Encouraging self-care and breaks for team members is an important aspect of managing stress levels within teams. This can include activities such as taking short breaks throughout the day, practicing mindfulness, or engaging in physical activity. Providing resources such as flexible schedules or time off for self-care can also be beneficial.

Providing support and resources to team members can also help to reduce stress levels within teams. This can include offering mental health resources, providing access to counselling services, or offering workshops and training on stress management techniques. Providing support can help individuals to better manage stress and improve their overall well-being.

Creating a positive and supportive work environment is also crucial in managing stress levels within teams. This can involve creating a culture that promotes collaboration, teamwork, and open communication. Encouraging team building activities and fostering a sense of community can also help to reduce stress levels and create a positive work environment.

I’ve discussed the challenges in the current volatile environment and the importance of maintaining productive stress levels for both individuals and teams. I've covered strategies for managing personal stress levels, including self-care and mindfulness, as well as strategies for managing team stress levels, including communication and support.

It is important for senior leaders to address stress levels within their teams in order to maintain productivity and well-being. Addressing stress in a proactive and supportive manner can help to improve the overall health and satisfaction of employees and ultimately contribute to the success of the organisation.

Senior leaders play a crucial role in addressing stress levels within their teams and creating a positive work environment. By getting onto the ideas I've covered, senior leaders can help their teams to better manage stress and maintain productivity in a volatile environment. We encourage senior leaders to take action to address stress levels within their teams and make a positive impact on their employees and organisations.

Have a crack at the 3-questions technique. Try to make it a habit. It really enables you to take control of stressors rather than them taking control of you. Let me know how you get on.

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