No matter size or type of business, whether you're on the up, cruising fairly steadily or skidding through a rough patch, stress is going to be a factor wherever human beings are involved. And never more so than when you're in an all-hands-on-deck situation to cope with a rush of business or deal with some kind of crisis.
The point about stress for employers and managers is how you manage it, there are few more defining qualities for a leader than how you pilot your team through an intense and difficult situation. The key to successful stress management is planning, and planning for stress means facing up to the fact that, if you are going to grow and prosper, there will be times when the pressure really rises.
If you look at how you manage your business and your people through the lens of how well prepared you are for a super-busy, short-staffed, mission critical episode it can reveal quite a lot that is also really helpful in calmer waters.
Check through our 15 bright ideas to prepare you and your team for high-stress periods so that the tough really can get going when the going actually does get tough.
Make sure everyone knows what their role is, what tasks are their responsibility,what they need to deliver and when. Link individual goals with team goals. A whiteboard can really help to keep everyone on track.
Keep people in the loop about whatever is going on and what the plan is to deal with it. If you are going to motivate your staff to go the extra mile or ten, it helps a lot if they understand why this is being asked of them.
Trust needs to be reciprocal. When that day, or night, comes when you need to ask people to go over and above for the business and the team, you'll need them to trust you. They are more likely to if you have been honest with them and if you demonstrate your trust in them to deliver.
Trust should be a habit though. If you want resilient, proactive people capable of getting to it and thinking on their feet without someone breathing down their neck, you need to build a culture where people are allowed to get on with their job, make their own mistakes and solve them.
The time and investment you put in to creating, implementing and documenting systematic procedures for accomplishing key tasks, as well as all the supportive administration your business needs to function, really comes into its own in a tough time.
Personal systems are important too. Encourage people (including yourself!) to think about how they deal with perennial interruptions like email and phone calls. If you need to concentrate close them all down and foster a habit of having specific times when you check your inbox or voicemail and prioritize what really needs to be responded to and when. Use diaries and task managers to give you the security of knowing that you won't forget.
Invest in decent equipment and make sure your staff don't just know how to use it to best effect, but also how to maintain it in good working condition.
It's amazing how many people have no idea how to perform routine housekeeping tasks like defragging, backing up and cache clearing on their pcs. It's a good topic for your internal newsletter. I don't know if there are any statistics that reveal just how many ridiculously long days are worked because of slow computers or cranky printers, but it's got to be a lot.
Seems simple and obvious but it's all to easy to put off finding the time and money for quality training and development. In a crisis, everyone needs to be really good at what they do and able to do it quickly and confidently without supervision.
Good training programs don't just develop the talents of your crew, they reveal them. The business gets more of what it needs to perform and thrive profitably, your staff feel they have made a good career choice that will take them places. That counts for a lot when achieving results demands more than average commitment.
This is about having both who and what you need at hand. If your team is stretched thin at the best of times you've got the potential for real problems if you hit an intensely busy period. If you can't expand your staff right now, have a good think about ways of covering work on a temporary basis.
There's lots to be said for maintaining good relations with former staff who have left for family reasons or retirement. They will often be glad of a bit of temporary work as and when you need them - and all that knowledge and experience they gained when they were with you won't go to waste.
Virtual teams are also increasingly a thing. Think beyond simple admin and diary management - our creative marketing agency works entirely on a remote basis and picks up all sorts of jobs for us.
And of course, you can outsource your HR management and admin to Tiger HR!
People will cope a lot better with demanding work schedules if they know each other a little informally. Leaders need to lead and decision-making structures are very good to have when you need to get things done with no questions asked. But it all goes down a lot better if you all have the chance to relax together sometimes.
Awaydays, teambuilding events (there are SO many options and ideas out there these days, it doesn't have to be all fake enthusiasm and worthiness) and just plain old meet-ups for a drink after work give people the chance to bond a bit and see each other more as fellow human beings.
So important!! The best leaders make Thank You a regular habit anyway, but if you and your team have just been through an uphill struggle it's super important to make sure that they know that you - personally - appreciate them and are grateful. And no, overtime, commission, bonuses etc do NOT get you off the hook on this one!
Let your people know that you see what they put in to the business.
Respect your employees work-life balance. No emailing or phoning people at home unless it's a real emergency. Lots of us work odd hours to catch up, if you are working on something out-of-hours, use an email client that allows you to schedule an email to go out the following morning rather than at 11pm at night.
Or be clear with staff that you may send e-mails at strange hours because you’re catching up but you don’t expect responses until the next day..
When long hours are being worked, little aggravations and discomforts become quite big issues. Make your workplace as comfortable as it can be whilst still being optimised for getting the job done.
Decent seating for everyone, a nicely set up and well-stocked coffee area, somewhere for people to sit during breaks so they can properly relax and clear their minds are all really helpful to sustained productivity.
A designated quiet area where people can work on concentrated tasks under "library rules" is also a good idea.
Good health and safety practice is vital in any circumstances. When people are tired and stressed, they are more likely to cut corners and accidents are even more likely to happen. Make sure that everyone, especially managers, is especially vigilant when things are bit more intense than usual.
If you have staff working late PLEASE make sure they can all get home safely. Find out early if they are going to have any travel issues and arrange a lift or a taxi for them if needed.
Inject a little fun in to late night or weekend work sessions. Customers aren't ringing in or visiting during these times in most cases. Send out for a takeaway, get some music on (as long as it's not going to interfere). It's one thing to keep on working, quite another to stay suited and booted and behaving formally beyond the 9-to-5.
The point is to achieve the result, shell out for a treat to cheer everyone up and encourage everyone to loosen up. These can be the occasions when teams really bond.
A well-considered remuneration plan will cover what people can expect from you for overtime and out of hours work.
You might still want to add on some perks or a one-0ff bonus to reward staff for particular effort and commitment in a busy or crisis period. It's wise to think through the tax implications though before just randomly adding an amount to someone's pay cheque. There is often a smarter way to do it.
Tiger HR can advise you on putting in place great remuneration strategies and on how to offer perks and bonuses in different situations.
When your team has pulled out all the stops to pull off a big success make an occasion of it!
Pick something that everyone will enjoy - tickets for a show, a meal out, or even an awayday.
But even if it's not been a massive victory, and you've all been nose to the grindstone to deal with some sort of problem, find a way to get everyone together to do something enjoyable and let their hair down - ready for the next challenge.