Three signs that your team is feeling the pressure

Article by Sheri Hughes, UK D&I Director, Michael Page

Sad woman at desk, Blue MondayAn overly pressured team could lead to collective burn out, a situation all managers will want to avoid.

However, spotting the early warning signs is now more difficult with many employees currently working from home. For those staff members working from home, a common theme is that the new arrangement has blurred the lines between the personal and professional spheres of their lives. With many employees working longer hours than the more traditional 9am-5pm, managers should be aware of certain red flags which, if left ungoverned, can lead heightened stress levels across the board. Here are three important warning signs of a team that’s feeling the pressure.

A decline in productivity

Firstly, a sign to look out for is a sustained and noticeable drop in productivity. Expecting consistent perfection from any employee is unfair, but when performance drops markedly for an extended period, and by the usually reliable staff members, it is cause for concern. This may translate to simple mistakes being made such as diary mismanagement, sloppy reporting and missing hard deadlines. It can also mean a breakdown of communication among colleagues, where important information is not passed on, leading to uncompleted tasks or projects.

Negativity in team meetings and emails

Negativity on team calls, or over emails, is often a tell-tale sign of an overly pressurised or overworked team. Pre-COVID-19 colleagues may have vented frustration by the water cooler to let off steam, but when negativity becomes a daily occurrence, it is time for managers to act. Employees can become negative in their mindset when they feel tasks are becoming harder to complete on time and to the standard expected of them. It is a response mechanism to a heavy workload and the feeling of being overstretched.

A rise in sick days

The biggest red flag for bosses to watch out for is an increase in sickness levels across the board, as it may be a sign that the whole team is overstretched. Managers need to act before this happens as absenteeism can lead to employees handing in their notice if the situation is not managed effectively. Increased sick days is sometimes used as drastic action taken by employees when they cannot face the pressures of their daily tasks any longer.

What can managers do?

Managers need to help employees to set boundaries, and lead by example in doing so. Encouraging employees to log off at suitable times and not be expected to continuously work overtime is a positive step. Establishing designated periods of the day where employees working from home can take a break from their screens is also important. The mental health benefits from taking a walk are well documented, but bosses can go a step further. For instance, scheduling regular online fitness or yoga classes for the team can both help to improve team bonding and allow members to reap the mental health benefits of exercise.

Bosses should not just rely on HR departments to look after employee wellbeing – there ought to be input from the top downwards. Recent studies have revealed the damaging effect lockdown has had on our sense of togetherness. Organising virtual group games like bingo or quizzes can go some way to remedying the situation, giving employees a chance to socialise with colleagues they have not seen much of for nearly a year. Replicating the office buzz is impossible, but successful managers find ways of promoting a positive company culture through sociable activity away from the daily work routine.

Finally, bosses need to reassure their employees that they are aware of their stress levels and are actively seeking to reduce stress in the workplace. Employees who experience burn out are more likely to leave the business, causing  employers to expend resources finding new recruits and training them – so there is good business sense to ensuring teams are happy. Over the long term, this will help to create loyal team members who enjoy their jobs.

Sheri HughesAbout the author

Sheri joined PageGroup in December 2002 as a consultant and then progressed to manager and associate director by successfully managing regional UK offices.  In January 2015 she moved across into the Diversity & Inclusion team and was promoted to UK D&I Director.  Since then PageGroup’s D&I agenda has gone from strength to strength.  In 2018 alone, they were the first recruitment company to achieve: Times Top 50 Employers for Women, Stonewall Top 100 and BITC Gold Award for the Gender benchmark.

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