How to manage stress through challenging times

Dr Melissa Marot's tips for building resilience in high pressure environments.

Wherever we go, live or work, stress is on the rise. There is increasing strain at work and in our industry, whether it’s through growth or managing challenging circumstances.

In the cleaning and restoration industry we often have to manage 24/7 response, quick deployment of our team and equipment, deal with multiple stakeholders, the home-owner or building owner, the insurance company, and other trades – as well as stresses and strains of managing our business and our team.

Resilience is a word we’ve been using for many years now, we tell ourselves and others to be more resilient – tough it out, be stoic. Often, we think of resilience like a basketball, bouncing back.

But sometimes we feel like we’re not bouncing at all, just rolling on the ground. It can be hard managing our own stress or burnout, but how can we also help our team handle their feelings of stress?

What is burnout? Burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to; physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and detachment, feelings of being ineffective/lack of accomplishment.

Burnout doesn’t happen suddenly; you don’t wake up one morning and suddenly “have burnout”. Its nature is much more insidious, creeping up on us over time like a slow leak, which makes it harder to recognise. Still, our bodies and minds do give us warnings, and if you know what to look for, you can recognise it before it’s too late.

What can we do to be resilient at work?

There are some practical and easy to use tips that aren’t time, budget or resource intensive to build our own and our team’s resilience. This is part one of a series of articles on this issue – here are some tips to start off with:

Be intentional about time to disconnect outside of work

There is the pressure to be “always on”, always be across jobs, responsive to clients, troubleshooting, have our minds on the business – research has shown across companies large and small that it’s hard to disconnect from work, especially for business owners.

Although running a successful business and managing jobs requires consistent focus and attention, this is dangerous and ineffective over time.

It does not take recovery time into account. All the best sports stars take time out to recover and rest, so be intentional and specific about how you and your team can take time out to rest and recover.

Be deliberate about “recharge” time during the workday or slow periods

Taking time out from the pressure to be “always on” in the workplace is also important – intentionally find time to pause and recharge during the workday or slow periods.

Author and management consultant Tony Schwartz suggests productive “work is not a marathon but a series of sprints that requires recovery and renewal”.

It’s not the number of hours people work that matters, it’s how productive they are during their working hours. If it’s difficult to find “recharge” time, work hard to create some.

Focus on monotasking not multi-tasking

Multi-tasking is a myth. When we try to multi-task, our attention is split between many things and we are inefficient – just ask someone to have a chat with you while you are trying to write an email or speaking with someone else on your mobile.

Multitasking often doubles the amount of time it takes to do something and doubles the number of mistakes – it’s also exhausting.

We are instead better at “serial monotasking” – otherwise, clear, one-at-a-time tasks and jobs that don’t overlap, and with clear outcomes. We are also more productive with “serial monotasking”.

Model and encourage well-being

Prioritise activities that encourage health and well-being – we’ve all heard about the importance and know what these activities are, e.g. exercise, diet, spending time with family and friends, limit alcohol, etc. But we are sometimes not very good at carrying it out.

Think about how you can encourage these activities; how do we manage our weekends, our mobile phones, do we have days of rest, do we structure our day with break times (sometimes we have deadlines where we need to work 24/7, but do we factor in recovery time afterwards). Do we deliberately set up time to spend with family and friends?

The bottom line for business owners and our teams that if we manage stress effectively and build resilience, we become more engaged and productive over time. Doing well at work and feeling good at work is the foundation for strong performance – for ourselves and our team.

Dr Melissa Marot has a specialist interest in wellbeing and performance at work. Melissa is a consultant organisational psychologist and neuropsychologist with a keen interest in the neurosciences. She has specifically worked with the cleaning and restoration industry over the last decade.

This first appeared in the September/October issue of INCLEAN magazine 

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